We the people. Really?

On the day of the Pennsylvania Primary canvassers wait in the driveway of the parking lot of the polling place at St. Stanislaus Church on Fitzwater St. for voters so they can give out literature on their candidates.

NOW THAT (hopefully) most yard signs are gone and there's (maybe) some respite from TV ads, let's take a breath and think about this thing we call democracy.

And, yeah, technically it's not a true democracy, but a democratic republic in which we freely elect representatives to govern on our behalf.

Whatever you call it, in Pennsylvania, I call it problematic.

Far too many of "we the people" opt out, and our government's far too complicit in helping us do so.

Consider last week's primary.

Many tout a statewide turnout of 45 percent of major-party voters as if participation of less than half an electorate is somehow a point of pride.

It isn't.

And, in fact, true turnout was 33 percent, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, which tracks voting in every state.

Why? Because the most honest measure of turnout isn't only registered voters; it includes eligible voters.

State data show 8.27 million registered voters. Using U.S. census data, the Elections Project shows 9.72 million resident citizens 18 and older and eligible to vote. That means we've got 1.45-million-plus nonvoters.

In Philly, the difference between registered and eligible is more than 154,000 (and no cracks about dead people). In Allegheny County, it's more than 105,000.

Would election outcomes differ if more or most eligible voters took part? If our state made voting easier? Or if voting was mandatory, as in dozens of nations, often enforced with fines?

Maybe so, maybe not, but shouldn't fuller participation be a goal of REPRESENTATIVE democracy?

What if, for example, Pennsylvania allowed all registered voters to participate in primaries? It doesn't. Only registered Republicans and Democrats can vote for candidates. (Others can vote only on ballot questions.)

According to current stats, that keeps 1.08 million voters - independents, Libertarians, whatever, whose taxes pay for elections - from having a say in who runs our government.

Seem right?

The late, great H.L. Mencken, Bard of Baltimore, journalist extraordinaire, famously quipped, "Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good."

But if, say, 1.08 million "others" had a voice in primaries, or if more of the 1.45 million unregistered opted in, might nonestablishment candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Joe Sestak, and John Fetterman fare better?

Ah, but keeping voting down helps the establishment keep power. And it works.

Know how many of the 25 state senators up this year lost last week? Zero.

Know how many of 203 state House members lost? Four.

Know how many of our 18-member U.S. House delegation lost? One. And he, Philly's Chaka Fattah, faces a federal corruption trial this month.

Guess we love the job performance of our Harrisburg/Washington lawmakers so much, we want to make sure to keep them.

And we will: In 20 of 26 Philly state House seats and in 18 of 23 Allegheny County House seats and in seven of 18 U.S. House seats, there are no fall opponents.

Oh, and in the other congressional races, one, maybe two, will be competitive.

In Pennsylvania, "the year of the outsider" is evidenced only by Donald J. Trump.

But what if there was real redistricting reform?

What if more people voted, if more were permitted to vote, if the state allowed early voting, multiday voting, no-excuse-needed absentee voting, mail-in voting, same-day-registration voting, or advocated in meaningful ways a fuller embrace of representative government?

Maybe then our elections would reflect the best ideals of democracy. Cuz right now? They don't.


Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer