My first vote for Council at Large is going to Sherrie Cohen

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to urge you to vote for Sherry Cohen for City Council at Large in Tuesday’s primary.

There are a number of good candidates for Council at Large, including the incumbents. But Sherrie could bring something special to the office—a real commitment to building support throughout the city for progressive causes. Sherrie’s done that already, especially as a leader of the Coalition for Essential Services. With the resources of a Council, Sherrie could be even more effective in this role.

Why is this so important?

Philadelphia politics is conducted in the typical fashion of one party town—and that is the main reason politics remains broken in Philadelphia. Most decisions are made by the Mayor and Council in private discussions. Members of Council go to great pains to reach consensus and avoid public dispute.

Two bad consequences are the result. First, it is very difficult for new, innovative ideas to come before Council or to receive the kind of debate that will enlighten the public. Second, Council is very resistant to public pressure. Indeed, members of Council, are less open to public sentiment than our state legislators and members of Congress.

(As you know, I’ve run a few grassroots issue campaigns. I’ve never had a member of Congress or of the General Assembly yell at me for doing so or turn down an offer to build support for legislation they support. Council members have done that to me more than once.)

Sherrie will help change this dynamic. She will be a Council member who not only cares about the interests of the public but will work hard to work with progressive activists to build pressure on Council to make sure the public interest is served. That’s what her father—one of my role models—did on Council before her. That’s what we can expect her to do as well.

We all have five votes for Council. I’m going to use my first one to vote for Sherrie Cohen.

I hope you do as well.

Marc Stier

Thanks, Marc for Pledging First Council At Large Vote to Sherrie

Thanks for pledging your first vote for Sherrie Cohen! Your enthusiastic endorsement is especially meaningful because of your deep knowledge of many of the Council at Large candidates, and your active run for the position in 2007.

Those who have five candidates they want to vote for should do so. But those who care strongly about less than five can vote for whatever number of Council at Large candidates they choose to. Each of the candidates is competing with each of the other candidates, so it won't be absolutely clear until the election is over precisely who was a sure winner, who was a sure loser, and who was battling whom in a close race for the 4th or 5th slot.

My sister Sherrie Cohen has long sought ways to mobilize people for progressive causes, because she knows that a mobilized citizenry will get a lot more done than a passive citizenry will. She has participated in just about every debate just about every where, and has strengthened her determination to use City Council as a meaningful lever to improve people's lives and build a better city. You can only cast one vote for Sherrie, but you can magnify your impact by limiting the votes for rival candidates, by talking to as many people as possible, and by phone banking and phone calling. Sherrie's campaign can be reached at 215-320-7555, or, or

How does that "bullet ballot" work

How does that "bullet ballot" work again? What kind of proportional advantage is gained if I vote for just one, two or three candidates?

Choose Your Number of Votes For Council At Large Carefully

Kathy, there are "only" 14 candidates for the 5 Democratic City Council at large seats--by far the lowest number of candidates since the position was first created for the 1951 elections.

The fewer the candidates you vote for, the stronger the vote for those people is. A vote is a vote: the voting machine has no way of calculating the relative importance the voter places on any candidate. A vote of "she's really great" counts exactly as much as "he's OK as a lesser evil."

Candidates not only have to get votes, but to win they have to get votes that their rivals are not getting. The five candidates who get the most votes win, whether or not people think they are really great or they just are are not as terrible as some other people are.

Because there is no meaningfully contested mayoral primary, and many people do not bother to go down the ballot to vote for councilman at large, the election for Council at Large this year could be very close. They often have been close in the past: Councilman David Cohen won by something like 3,900 votes in 1991, 5,100 in 1995, and 6,900 in 1999. I would expect the battles for 4th and 5th place in the Democratic Council at large primary could be very close between Sherrie Cohen, Andy Toy, and incumbents James Kenney and Wilson Goode.

If you vote for five candidates, each of them gets 20% of your votes. If you vote for four candidates, each of them gets 25% of your votes. If you vote for three candidates, each of them gets 33% of your votes. If you vote for two candidates, each of them gets 50% of your votes. If you vote for one candidate, that candidate gets 100% of your votes.

Marc Stier calculates below that the average voter votes for 2.3 candidates. Having studied past election returns closely, that sounds reasonable to me. It means the average Democratic voter thinks there are two or three (mainly two) candidates really worth supporting, and so pushes for those people to the exclusion of all others.

As Sherrie Cohen's oldest brother, I am obviously a partisan in this election. But I think a good objective rule is this: You can cast up to five votes for Council at Large. Choose your number of votes and your candidates carefully.

The average Philadelphian votes for 2.3 Council members at large

If you look at the numbers, that is what you will find. People vote for the two or three candidates they like the best in order to maximize the impact of their vote.

This has been a long standing pattern created in large part by our factionalized politics. If you look at the 5 Council members at large you will see that there are representatives of a number of the largest factions in the city many of whose supporters were likely to bullet voe for them. (And Bill Greenlee who is a popular ward leader and got a geat ballot position last time, a he did this time again.)

Anyone who truly wants and

Anyone who truly wants and does what the people want should be voted for. Special interest groups who have agendas should get out of politics. This country was built on people not agendas.

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