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Low turn out condemned Pennsylvania to Pat Toomey

Credit: Emily Giedzinski/ Credit: Emily Giedzinski/

In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, there has been a great deal of speculation about how the U.S. government should proceed. On the Democratic side, there are those that want to see Barack Obama appoint a new justice before he leaves office. In contrast, there are members of the Republican Party that do not want Obama to appoint anyone before his tenure as president is over. Among those opposed to Obama appointing a new justice is Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA).

Toomey is very adamant about Obama putting off the decision until the next president is in office. Toomey believes that, by waiting until the next president has been elected, the American people will have a more direct influence on the choice. By stalling on the nomination, the vacant seat will be left open for at least 415 days, making it the seventh longest Supreme Court vacancy in history. This is in sharp contrast to the average vacancy of 67 days. The Republican party’s decision to strike down any nominee not only blocks the president from exercising his constitutional powers, but can severely influence the judicial process for the Supreme Court.

A Public Policy Polling survey found that 76 percent of Pennsylvanian voters disagree with Toomey’s obstructionist policies. This is only one of several recent issues that has caused him to be viewed in a negative light by many Pennsylvania voters. Of interest to The Tartan is how voter apathy towards local elections and a lack of voter education has resulted in Pennsylvania being represented by someone who does not share the same beliefs as the people he was elected to represent.

Despite being passionate about a variety of large scale issues and putting a great deal of effort into campaigning, younger people did not turn up in the polls in 2010 when Toomey was elected. This lack of turnout caused a significant shift in Pennsylvania’s representation in Congress. The reason for this lackluster turnout boils down to an idea many young people hold that they are not actually able to change anything in politics. Many young people believe that voting won’t actually lead to a solution. It tends to be the case that despite caring about local issues, young adults don’t care about voting in local elections.

Recently, a petition was started to make Pat Toomey do his job of advising and consenting to a nominee put forward by Obama. Toomey’s agreement to prevent an appointment is rendering him useless as a Senator. He was elected to perform his constitutional duties, but is failing to fulfill his obligations when he threatens to block the president from carrying out a constitutional process. It is his duty, and the duty of all members in Congress, to allow a nominee to be appointed to the court.

Toomey claims that it is quite a common occurrence to leave court vacancies open for extended periods of time during election years. This claim, however, is false. He is violating vital constitutional processes, but more importantly, he is letting down those who have entrusted him with the power to represent them fairly and accurately. The Pennsylvanian population now has to react by petitioning for Toomey to represent them because of the lack of action by voters during the midterm elections.

Toomey has also been ducking the question of if he would be willing to meet with a Supreme Court nominee. This leads many to assume that Toomey would reject meeting with any nominee. This is a blatant obstruction of the constitutional process. It’s already upsetting that he decided to side with congressional Republicans on their decision to likely decline any nominees, but now there’s a chance that he won’t even consider siding with the people he was elected to represent.

The fact that he is going against a three quarters majority of public opinion raises questions about Toomey’s loyalty to citizens of the Keystone State. He seems to value his ties and relations in D.C. more than the trust of his constituents. As a Senator, he was elected to be a trustee, meaning that those who voted for him entrust him to speak and advocate on their behalf.

However, it seems more as if he’s been acting as a delegate for the Republicans of D.C. Toomey seems to be falling in line with Republican Senate leadership in their vow to block any decision made by Obama rather than acting on behalf of those who elected him. He’s a perfect example of an elected official who would rather strengthen personal ties with his party lines in D.C. rather than act as an effective proponent for the people who elected him.

Despite Toomey’s choice to back the party’s decision to reject any justice nominee, it’s hard to put the blame on Toomey’s shoulders alone. The blame falls, at least in part, on those who did not vote in the 2010 midterm elections. Despite having 8,478,509 people registered in Pennsylvania at the time of the election, only 3,977,661 people actually voted in the election. The lack of turnout on election day resulted in a shift from a Democrat to a Republican trustee, and a trustee who does not accurately embody the will of the people. This highlights a critical issue: Low voter turnout leads to unfavorable candidates being elected.

While it might seem like local elections are not as important as the presidential elections, they are probably the most important. Voting in local elections is a great way for citizens to most directly have their voices heard in Congress. It’s important to elect someone that the entire population can trust. If less than half of the voting population is actually voting, it’s hard to have any influence over what happens in D.C. Those that complain about not being represented are most often the ones that do not vote to make their voices heard.

There needs to be a shift in the way local elections are thought of. We must place more emphasis on local elections, and young people need to realize the importance of voting. It is not enough to be passionate about issues and advocate for candidates. Voter turnout needs to increase for accurate and effective representation to be put in place. If there is no change in voter turnout, there will be no change in representation. Consequently, it is likely that there will be other elected Senators with only 24 percent of the population in agreement with them.

The last day to register for the upcoming election, in which Toomey is up for reelection, is March 28, 2016. That deadline is creeping up fast, and many college aged people still aren’t registered. You can register in Pennsylvania by going to the Pennsylvania Department of State website and clicking on Voter Registration. The actual election will take place on April 26, 2016. Democracy only works when people participate by registering and showing up to the polls on election day.