Publications » Newsletter

Email You can now receive our news and information via e-mail. To sign up for email delivery of our news, click here.
Newsletter Archive Newsletter Archive

May/June 2001

Inside This Issue:

 

Variety of Voting Methods Reigns in PA
Voting methods have been the hot topic nationwide these past months. And in Pennsylvania, that topic was reviewed by the legislature to determine if voting methods need to be more uniform across the state.

To get a better idea of what method is most widely used across the Commonwealth, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania analyzed the voting methods used during the November 2000 election and learned that variety reigns.

Voting methods

According to the Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation, rural Pennsylvania and the state as a whole use five different methods of voting and the distribution of these methods is quite diverse. Twenty-one of the Commonwealth’s 42 rural counties use the optical scan system that is used in only one predominately urban county, Cumberland. Three rural counties, Fulton, Potter, and Sullivan, use only paper ballots; no urban county uses this method. Six rural and four urban counties use the infamous punch cards and seven rural and 14 urban counties use lever machines. The lever machine is the preferred method in 14 of the state’s 25 urban counties. Only four urban counties and one rural county, Greene, use a direct recording electronic system. Four rural and two urban counties use a combination of paper and another method.

There is also disparity among the number of registered voters who use each method. In rural Pennsylvania, there are close to 1.5 million registered voters, and nearly 50 percent live in counties that use the optical scan system. Another 25 percent live in counties that use lever machines; 16 percent live in counties that use punch cards; and fewer than 2 percent use direct recording systems.

In urban counties, 70 percent of the 6.3 million urban registered voters use lever machines. Another 16 percent use direct recording devices and nearly 10 percent use punch cards. Although, more than 800,000 rural and nearly 600,000 urban registered voters were subject to the dreaded chads, which are produced by punch card machines, that is less than the national average of 20 percent of precincts reported by Governing magazine.

Voter turnout

Voter turnout in the November 2000 presidential election was nearly 65 percent in the Commonwealth’s rural counties, more than 2 percentage points higher than in urban Pennsylvania. This means that of the 1.5 million registered rural voters, 960,000 cast votes for a presidential candidate. Nearly half a century earlier, in the 1952 presidential election, there were 1 million rural residents registered to vote and 868,000 cast votes for the office of president. This calculates to an 86 percent turnout, which is higher than the current rate and slightly lower than the 1952 urban rate of 87 percent.

The number one county for voter turnout in 2000 was rural Forest County at 76 percent, and the two counties with the lowest turnout were urban Philadelphia and Centre counties with 55 and 56 percent, respectively. The top 12 counties for voter turnout were rural.

Was voter turnout related to voting method? Of the top 15 counties for turnout, 12 used the optical scan system. Of the lowest 15 counties, only three use the optical scan system. The lever machine was used by eight of the 15 low turnout counties and two of the top 15. The use of other methods was not correlated to turnout.

According to county representatives at the February hearing on elections and voter registration issues, held by the House State Government Committee, counties are satisfied with the voting methods they currently employ. Each method has pros and cons and counties have selected those they believe fit them best at present.

Want more info?

For a copy of the fact sheet, Variety of Voting Methods Reigns in PA, call or email the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or info@ruralpa.org.

Voting Methods Defined

Following is a list and brief description of the voting methods used in Pennsylvania.

Optical Scan - Voter colors in an oval next to the name of a candidate. A computer scans the form to record the vote.*

Direct Recording - Voter inputs choices directly into a computer using an ATM-like touch screen machine.*

Punch Card - Voter pushes a stylus through the card next to the name of a candidate. Votes are electronically counted by another machine.*

Lever Machine - Voter pulls a lever next to the name of a candidate and pulls another when finished to record the votes. Counts are kept within the machine.

Paper - No electronic or mechanical means are used in the voting process.

* Note: Direct Recording, Optical Scan, and Punch Cards are all considered electronic voting systems by the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation.

Top


 

Chairman’s Message
Last year, our nation experienced a presidential election that tested our system of government and the way we conduct elections. It brought to light some of the antiquated methods that are still being used by voters to select their leaders in this new century.

In an age of high technology, automatic teller machines, the Internet, and other conveniences we take for granted in this brave, new world, it is amazing how much variation remains in how ballots are cast.

This issue of Rural Perspectives takes a look at the various voting methods being used in the Keystone State’s 67 counties. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s analysis shows there is no one way being used, or promoted, in the Commonwealth. The Center’s analysis is based on methods used in the November 2000 election, as reported by the Department of State’s Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation. At a legislative hearing of the House State Government Committee held this past February, county representatives offered testimony indicating that, by and large, they are satisfied with the voting methods they are currently using.

In addition to looking at the top ways of voting in Pennsylvania, this edition of Rural Perspectives takes a snapshot look at the top 10 employers in rural Pennsylvania. The article on page 5 reveals that manufacturing surfaced in 20 of the state’s 42 predominantly rural counties as the largest employer. In our urban areas, there is almost an even distribution between manufacturing, service, government, and health care for the top employers. The Center can provide a list of the top employers for all 67 counties to anyone who is interested in receiving that information. Just call in or e-mail your request.

In this edition, I also have the pleasure of introducing our newest board member, Senator Michael A. O’Pake of the 11th Senatorial District in Berks County. We welcome Senator O’Pake, who is the Senate Democratic appointment to the Board.

Former Senator Patrick J. Stapleton held this seat on the Center’s Board of Directors for more than a decade. The Center’s Board and staff were saddened by Senator Stapleton’s death in March, following a lengthy illness after his retirement from the legislature last fall. Our condolences are offered to family and friends as we remember Pat Stapleton for his exceptional commitment to his community and for his dedication to rural Pennsylvania.

As I close this message, I must admit that I am enjoying the lengthening days, the warm refreshing breezes, the colorful flowers that adorn fruit trees and gardens, and the general hustle and bustle that comes with spring. It is a pleasure to bid farewell to gray winter days. I appreciate the longer daylight hours that give all of us more time to get things done outdoors. We join with farmers across the state in the seasonal rush to prepare the soil and plant the crops, whether a small garden or acres of land.

In Harrisburg, a different kind of field trip brings students to the halls of the Capitol where they spend the day learning more about state government. They watch as members of the General Assembly work on the final details of next year’s budget and continue to negotiate the legislative process to finalize Pennsylvania’s plan to invest the Tobacco Settlement Funds.

It is a busy time for all of us.

Representative Sheila Miller

Top


 

State Senator Patrick J. Stapleton
Former State Sen. Patrick J. Stapleton, a founding board member of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and an eight-term senator, died on March 10, 2001 at LifeCare Rehabilitation Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Sen. Stapleton served the residents of the 41st Senatorial District, which includes Armstrong, Indiana, and parts of Jefferson and Westmoreland counties, for three decades and served as the treasurer of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for 13 years.

In 2000, Sen. Stapleton decided not to run for a ninth term.

Throughout his 30 years of public service, Sen. Stapleton demonstrated exceptional commitment to his community and constituents and was a well-known advocate of rural Pennsylvania.

As a member of the Senate, he served as Minority Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and was also a member of the Appropriations, Environmental Resources and Energy, Transportation, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Rules and Executive Nominations committees.

As a well-known advocate of higher education, he also served as a member of the Board of Governor’s of the State System of Higher Education for 12 years.

In his hometown of Indiana, Sen. Stapleton was a member of the Council of Trustees of Indiana University of Pennsylvania for 30 years and its chairman for 27 years. He was honored with the building of a library that bears his name on the IUP campus in October 1982.

Representative Sheila Miller, chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, said that Sen. Stapleton served the Center and the Senate well and will be remembered fondly by members of both the House and Senate.

"Sen. Stapleton played such an active role in shaping Pennsylvania’s rural agenda," Rep. Miller said. "Through his leadership of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, he helped to improve the quality of life in rural communities and small towns throughout the Commonwealth. He will be remembered for his integrity and his leadership and will be sorely missed."

Top


 

Rural Pennsylvania: The place to be
The word is out. Rural Pennsylvania is an attractive place to live. New Census 2000 figures show that Pennsylvania’s rural counties grew in population by 6 percent while urban counties grew only half as fast since 1990. Five of the six counties whose population increased by more than 15 percent were rural, and the top three whose population decreased, Cambria, Philadelphia, and Allegheny counties, were all urban. In all, 40 percent of urban counties lost population while 24 percent of rural counties lost population.

As rural Pennsylvania grows, it is becoming more diverse. In 1990, 98 percent of rural Pennsylvanians were white non-Hispanic. In 2000, 95 percent were white non-Hispanic, showing an increase in the minority population of 3 percentage points. In total numbers, Hispanics increased by 143 percent from 16,000 to 39,000; blacks by 85 percent from 26,000 to 49,000; and other races by more than 200 percent from 16,000 to 48,000.

The population of children also shows a fast-changing picture. White non-Hispanic children made up 97 percent of the total rural population under age 18 in 1990. This figure fell to 94 percent in 2000, which means an additional 3 percent were minorities. Numbers of Hispanic children rose by 151 percent from 5,600 to 14,200, and other races increased by 228 percent from 5,500 to 18,200. The number of black children did not increase as fast as the race in the total population, increasing 69 percent from 7,500 to 12,600.

The top three growth counties of Pike, Monroe, and Wayne, located in the northeast corner of the state, grew by amazing rates of 66, 45, and 20 percent, respectively. It appears that the rural atmosphere of this corner of the state may be appealing to the families in neighboring New York and New Jersey.

Top


 

Did You Know . . .

* Pennsylvania ranks 16th in the nation in the number of local governments per capita.

* Efforts are underway to convert abandoned mine land to productive agricultural land. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania will provide more information on these efforts in an upcoming issue of Rural Perspectives.

* According to 1999 estimates, people born between 1977 and 1994 made up 25 percent of Pennsylvania’s rural population.

* In 1999, there were nearly as many rural county residents aged 5 and under as there were residents aged 75 and over.

Top


 

Pennsylvania’s Top Rural Employers
Who are the largest employers in rural Pennsylvania? According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the distinction goes primarily to manufacturing and service businesses.

In the second quarter of the year 2000, the largest employer in 20 of the state’s 42 rural counties was a manufacturing or service company. In 15 rural counties, the number one employer was government, including federal and state government, and school districts. Hospitals and other health care institutions accounted for five of the top employers and the remaining two were retail companies. The number one rural employers included Ward Manufacturing in Tioga County, H E Rohrer Bus Service in Perry County, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in Lawrence County, Wal-Mart Associates, Inc. in Clearfield County, and Weis Markets, Inc. in Northumberland County.

In contrast, the top employers in the state’s urban counties were almost evenly distributed between manufacturing and service companies (8), government (8), and health care institutions (7). The last two top urban county employers were universities, including Penn State University in Centre County and Lehigh University in Northampton County.

The difference between rural and urban employers is less distinct when the top 10 employers in each county are considered. For example, manufacturing and service industry employers remain at the top of the list, followed by government. In the top 10 breakout, school districts are not included as a part of government and are included in the education category, along with institutions of higher learning.

While these top employers employ more of the workforce than other smaller companies in rural and urban areas, small businesses as a whole employ the highest number of people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, for example, more than 75 percent of rural business establishments employ fewer than 10 people.

Want more info?
For more information or to receive a list of the top 10 employers in your county, contact the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555.

Top


 

Center Welcomes Senator O’Pake
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania welcomes State Senator Michael A. O’Pake of Berks County to its Board of Directors. Sen. O’Pake has served the Senate since 1972 and had served in the State House of Representatives for two terms before being elected to the Senate. He is the Democratic Whip and Majority Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, and serves on the Committees on Aging and Youth, Appropriations, Intergovernmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Rules and Executive Nominations. Additional legislative assignments include membership on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, the Joint State Government Commission, and the Agricultural Land Preservation Board.

Sen. O’Pake is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he received his doctorate in law.

He also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees at Saint Joseph’s University and Alvernia College, and the advisory board of the Berks-Lehigh Campus of Penn State University.

Top


 

Update: Census 2000
It takes time to process 100 million questionnaires; just ask the U.S. Census Bureau. Since the 2000 Census deadline last year, the Census Bureau has been working hard to process and compile all of that data.

At the end of December 2000, the Census released state and national population totals and in March 2001, population figures became available for total population and voting age population cross referenced by race and Hispanic origin for all levels of census geography down to the block level. (See note at below) These selected data were released first to help determine reapportionment and redistricting.

In the summer and fall, data from the "short-form" questionnaire will be released. These forms, which were sent to all households in the nation, included basic population and housing questions such as age, race, and gender and whether the home is owned or rented. This information is also available for all census geographies down to the block level and its release is scheduled to begin in June 2001.

The data from the "long-form" questionnaire, which was only sent to a sample of households, will be available beginning in June 2002. This release includes more detailed population and housing data, such as ancestry and housing values, and socioeconomic data such as income, education, and labor force statistics. This series can be obtained only down to the census block group level of geography.

Rural and urban data will be released between March and June 2002 and will be available to the block level.

For more Census 2000 information, visit the U.S. Census Bureau’s website at www.census.gov or call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555.

A Note on Census Geographies: Besides providing data for political geographies such as states, counties, minor civil divisions or municipalities, legislative districts, and zip codes, the Census Bureau creates additional levels of geography for smaller-area analysis. Counties are divided into tracts, which are further split into blocks. Census tracts generally have a population size between 1,500 and 8,000 with an optimum size of 4,000. Blocks contain about the population of a city block. For some data, block level numbers are either not as accurate or could breach confidentiality, so the blocks are aggregated into block groups. Block groups generally contain between 600 and 3,000 people with an optimum size of 1,500 people.

Top


 

Just the Facts: Legal Cooperation
Among Pennsylvania’s municipalities, intergovernmental cooperation takes many forms; perhaps one of the least discussed is sharing municipal solicitors. A municipal solicitor, or attorney, provides legal advice and representation to local governments.

According to data from the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, more than 57 percent of the state’s 2,500 municipalities share solicitors.

About 50 percent of Pennsylvania’s boroughs share solicitors and nearly 64 percent of townships of the second class share solicitors. Census data shows that the majority of these municipalities are rural. The median population of these municipalities is less than 1,700. Financially, these municipalities have smaller budgets (under $1.7 million) and fewer landuse tools, such as planning commissions and zoning ordinances. In 1997, the average tax bill in these municipalities was less than $163 per person; in municipalities that do not share solicitors (excluding Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) the average tax bill is $201 per person. Municipalities that share solicitors spend a higher percentage of their budget, or about 16 percent, for roads and highways than those that do not share solicitors.

Regionally, municipalities in western Pennsylvania are more likely to share a solicitor than those in the eastern part of the state. At the county level, more than 85 percent of municipalities in Perry, Wyoming, Clarion, and Jefferson counties share a solicitor. Municipalities in Northampton, Luzerne, Delaware, and Lackawanna counties are the least likely to share a solicitor.

There is nothing unusual about sharing legal services. While ordinances may vary from municipality to municipality, township or borough codes do not. Once solicitors become knowledgeable in the various municipal codes, they can serve many municipalities. The data shows that more than 25 percent of the state’s municipalities have solicitors that provide services to four or more municipalities. Some solicitors provide services to more than 10 municipalities. In some cases, a law firm provides legal advice rather than an individual.

Top