As an independent voter, you may be used to sitting out Pennsylvania’s closed primaries. For the most part, you need to be registered as a Democratic or Republican voter to vote in Pennsylvania’s primaries, leaving voters affiliated with other parties, or no party, to wait until November to weigh in.
But! There’s a significant exception. Independent and unaffiliated voters MAY vote in a primary election where one or more referendum questions appear on the ballot – as they will in May of 2021.
We expect several ballot measures, as these items are known, to appear on the ballot for the May 18, 2021 primary election. Importantly, these items are on the ballot because if passed, they will amend the state Constitution of Pennsylvania. Ballot approval is the final step of the complex process needed to make changes to the PA state Constitution. These measures, known as legislatively referred constitutional amendments, have already passed the state Legislature twice. If approved by a majority of voters in the May primary, they will take effect, and modify the state Constitution.
We expect to see three proposed changes to the state Constitution on the May ballot:
A “yes” vote supports adding language to the state constitution that prohibits the denial or abridgement of rights on account of an individual’s race or ethnicity.
Our view: though we’d have preferred broader protections covering LGBTQ people, we think these protections merit adding to the state Constitution. We think you should vote YES on this ballot question.
Together, these measures attack the Governor’s ability to declare and maintain a state of emergency. The first measure limits the Governor to declaring a state of emergency of no more than 21 days, unless the Legislature approves a longer period. The second measure would let the General Assembly shorten or extend a Governor’s state of emergency declaration, without any provision for a Governor to veto.
Our view: these measures have been rammed through by a Republican majority angered by the emergency measures Governor Wolf took against the COVID-19 pandemic (a pandemic made much worse by the Trump Administration, a fact that didn’t stop PA state legislators from signing on to attempts to shift PA’s electoral votes from Joe Biden to the disgraced former President). These measures shift power from the Executive to the Legislature. To the extent the Legislature would use these powers to shorten emergency declarations, these measures also would cause the state to forgo vital federal funding during emergencies and disaster. We think you should vote NO on the two ballot questions pertaining to emergency declarations.