Important questions for voters on May 18

by Pete Mazzaccaro
Posted 5/13/21

Under a much more quiet set of circumstances than last November, local voters again are heading to the polls to vote in a primary election.

So-called “off-year” elections, in which …

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Important questions for voters on May 18

Posted

Under a much more quiet set of circumstances than last November, local voters again are heading to the polls to vote in a primary election.

So-called “off-year” elections, in which there are no big office contests (e.g. president, governor or senator), tend to suffer from significant dips in voter turnout. Northwest Philadelphia voters tend to be among the best in the city, but even here where voting habits are strong, judicial contests often don’t capture the imagination of voters in much the same way as those executive and legislative contests.

Those judicial races are important. But there are also significant questions that will be posed to voters on May 18.

DA’s race

Perhaps the most crucial is the Democratic primary contest between incumbent District Attorney Larry Krasner and challenger Carlos Vega, a former homicide prosecutor who was among the first fired by Krasner when he took office four years ago. That contest is a referendum on Krasner’s progressive approach to prosecution, which some see as a significant contributor to the city’s remarkable rise in homicide and shootings.

It’s not secret that the winner of the May 18 contest is almost assured an easy win in November. The DA race will determine whether voters want to continue Krasner’s program of reform or believe a change of direction is necessary.

Ballot questions

Voters will find four questions waiting for them when they go to vote. Two of those questions are the direct result of Republican lawmaker dissatisfaction with Gov. Tom Wolf’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both are amendments to the governor’s constitutional power to declare emergency.

The first of those questions would grant the General Assembly (the state’s Senate and House) the power to overturn a gubernatorial declaration of emergency with a simple majority vote. That can be vetoed by the Governor, but he or she can then be overruled by a two-thirds vote by the assembly.

The second question would limit an emergency declaration to 21 days after which the emergency could only be prolonged by the General Assembly.

State Democrats argue that those powers should remain exclusively with the Governor. Republicans argue the governor has too much power and that the ballot questions would provide a necessary check against abuse of those powers. Voting yes would endorse both of those proposed constitutional changes.

Anti-discrimination question

The last significant question before voters is a ballot question regarding a proposed amendment to add discrimination protections for people based on race and ethnicity. This is a more popular and less polarizing proposal that has support from members of both parties as well as the state’s chapter of the ACLU.

Be sure to vote. For much more information on candidates, ballots and polling places, see the Committee of 70s guide at seventy.org/publications/elections-voting

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