Being an adult means participating in democracy, even the boring and nasty bits

York Dispatch Editorial Board

A good friend recently bemoaned the chaos she was confronted with when she cracked open her mail-in ballot.

School board? A roster of unfamiliar names, some of them cross-filed as both Democrats and Republicans.

The courts? Some races were partisan. Others simply asked if the incumbents should be retained.

And then there were a bunch of low-level offices she scarcely understood, let alone has a strong opinion about. "What, precisely, does a constable do?" She asked. "Do they carry a shillelagh?"

All of it made her head spin, she said, and we can empathize.

Democracy is messy.

York County employees sort ballots at the York Fairground's Memorial Hall Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. About 100 county employees volunteered on their day off to help process ballots. Bill Kalina photo

There are some people — politicians, pundits and flacks — who are paid a lot of money to make it sound simple. To quote Bruce Springsteen, "it's just winners and losers and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line."

But few things in life are that simple.

And that's OK.


Just because something's complicated, just because the answers aren't cut and dried, that does not mean you can't understand it. Nor does it mean you are absolved of your responsibility as a citizen.

If you, like our friend, need a pep talk to get through your ballot, here goes.

You made it [insert your age here] revolutions around the sun. You got this.

The Internet is kind of an awful place right now but some of its reputation is unfair. Yes, we agree: Facebook is awful. Twitter is a cesspool. Reddit — don't get us started. But we sometimes forget the power at our fingertips. Virtually any question you can think to ask can be answered with a few keystrokes.

Don't know a thing about those school board candidates? Try Googling their name in quotation marks with the district they're running for. You're liable to uncover a trove of information about them. Example: Search for "Veronica Gemma" AND "Central York" and you'll soon learn about the role she played in that district's racist book ban.

The same principle follows for those judicial candidates. For example, you wouldn't know it from the ballot but "Anne Covey" is a Republican who's running to retain her seat on the Commonwealth Court. Within a few clicks, you'll find that in 2011 the Pennsylvania Bar Association did not recommend her bid for the state Supreme Court (and she subsequently lost). Why? In part, because she opposed legislation providing voter registration forms to newly released prisoners. This year, the bar did not recommend Covey for retention because of "failure to participate" with their vetting process.

It's perfectly understandable if you don't know what a constable does and, thus, what would make a person qualified to be one. And you're not alone. Simply asking Google "What is a constable?" returns a bevvy of information, including a full explanation on the York County government website.

Constables, according to the county, perform two main functions: "Preserve the peace specifically at the polls during Primary and General Elections [and] perform judicial duties to serve writs, warrants, bail pieces, etc."

Of course, The York Dispatch has your back, too.

We can't possibly cover every race on the ballot this November, but you'll find in-depth coverage of key races in York City and the Central York and Northeastern school districts. We also have explainers about mail-in ballots and all those judicial races.

So there you have it. Go forth and be an informed voter.

You got this.