IMPORTANT PRIMARY ELECTION REMINDERS

If you are an independent or minor-party voter in Pennsylvania, you probably aren’t accustomed to voting in Pennsylvania’s primaries.

That’s because Pennsylvania has what’s known as a closed-primary system, meaning only Democrats and Republicans get to pick their preferred candidates for office during these spring elections.

ALL Pennsylvania voters — yes, that includes independents and minor-party members — will be asked to consider four ballot questions on May 18. Three of the ballot questions would amend Pennsylvania’s Constitution and one is a Statewide Referendum.


STATEWIDE REFERENDUM

Making municipal fire and emergency medical services companies eligible for loans.

Ballot Question:

  • “Do you favor expanding the use of the indebtedness authorized under the referendum for loans to volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads under 35 PA.C.S. §7378.1 (related to referendum for additional indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies for the purpose of establishing and modernizing facilities to house apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, and for purchasing apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, protective and communications equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the fire companies and emergency medical services companies?”

What would it do? This is a statewide referendum (as opposed to a constitutional amendment) that would allow municipal fire departments or companies with paid personnel, as well as EMS companies, to apply for a loan through an existing state-run program. The money can be used to modernize or purchase equipment.


CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

Ballot Question 1

  • “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?”

What would it do? Currently, only Pennsylvania’s governor can end a disaster declaration, like the one the state is currently under to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

This proposed constitutional amendment would allow a majority of lawmakers to terminate the declaration at any time, without the governor’s consent.

How should you vote? If you believe Pennsylvania’s Governor should have the absolute power to determine the length and consequences of a statewide emergency disaster declaration you should vote NO. If you believe the General Assembly should share in the responsibility to determine the length and consequences of a statewide emergency disaster declaration you should vote YES.

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Ballot Question 2:

  • “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?”

What would it do? This question asks voters to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to limit a disaster declaration to 21 days. It could then only be continued with the consent of the legislature. Now, a disaster declaration lasts 90 days and can be renewed as many times as deemed necessary by the governor.

How should you vote? If you believe Pennsylvania’s Governor should have the absolute power to determine the length and consequences of a statewide emergency disaster declaration you should vote NO. If you believe the General Assembly should share in the responsibility to determine the length and consequences of a statewide emergency disaster declaration you should vote YES.

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Ballot Question 3:

  • “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?”

What would it do? This proposal amends the Pennsylvania Constitution to enshrine discrimination protections to Pennsylvanians based on race. Pennsylvania voters can signify, within the state constitution, that “freedom of discrimination based on race or ethnicity is an essential principle of liberty and free government.” This amendment applies to local, county and state governments, and acts independently from similar rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution.