2016 PA Judicial Retirement Age Referendum

The GOP-dominated PA Legislature wants to change the PA Constitution to raise the age of mandatory retirement for judges and justices from 70 to 75. Cynics and realists know the impetus for this action is to allow Chief Justice Thomas Saylor (R) to stay on the Supreme Court. PA used to reliably vote Republican. Now as older jurist Rs retire, they are replaced by younger Ds. The GOP solution:  raise the age of mandatory retirement so terms of existing judges are extended.

On June 1, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized in “Election Tampering” that “reasonable people can disagree whether 75 is a more appropriate mandatory retirement age than 70,” but the “chicanery” and deception involved in promoting this change together with the “steady stream of judicial scandal in recent years”  result in 2016 not being “the time to give all the state’s judges another five years on the bench.”

The saga of this referendum question is interesting as it makes clear that the party of low taxes and limited government doesn’t practice what it preaches. Shortly before the 4/26 primary, after absentee ballots went out, the referendum had been advertised, and the voting machines programmed, the GOP decided the wording for the question was too complicated and needed to be “clearer” and therefore voting on the referendum would be postponed until November 8.  Actually, they knew the referendum was going to be turned down by voters so they intervened to prevent defeat so that the wording could be rigged in a way to promote passage.  “More than two million Pennsylvania voters responded to the clear question on April 26 … with a clear answer: NO,” yet that outcome is to be disregarded.

By making the question “clearer,” the GOP is advocating that the text only ask whether judges should be required to retire at age 75. The goal of the new wording is to fool voters into thinking they are imposing a mandatory retirement age (when there is none) instead of what’s actually happening, raising the age.

The cost of running the election again is more than a million dollars and a lot of confused, disillusioned voters. Add that to the initial, similar or greater, expense that, given all the pressing needs of the state and its citizens, probably never should have been a Harrisburg priority, and you get a politically-motivated agenda that is costing taxpayers millions that could better be used elsewhere.  It’s hard to believe the GOP legislature can waste with impunity and then, with straight faces, tell Pennsylvanians there’s no money for roads, bridges, education.  Tell me again which party protects citizens from interference by bad government? Judge politicians on what they do, not what they say.

 

Ward Realignment in Upper Dublin 2015

Two years ago, when all legislative districts were re-drawn after the 2010 census, Upper Dublin’s solicitor informed the township manager and the Board of Commissioners that the UD needed to realign its wards. There are state regulations that require all voting entities be equivalent (within 2-3 percentage points of the average) in population so that each resident has equal representation. There are seven wards in Upper Dublin and one commissioner per ward.   Ward 1, with the greatest numbers and WARD 5 with similar population were on the high side and ward 3 with 500 less residents was greatly below the township average. The other four wards were high or low, but within the allowance.

A committee with a Democrat and Republican met with Deb Ritter, township administrative assistant, to fix the population imbalance. Unfortunately, Upper Dublin with two Congressional and three State Rep districts, which must remain intact, does not lend to much change. The first attempt to increase the size of ward 3 without making ward 6 too small was rejected by the state based on “split census blocks.” These are neighborhood groupings used in gathering census data. If you’ve never heard the term, you’re not alone. Even those who knew such blocks existed were surprised by the ruling.

Redoing population maps which effect where people vote always causes angst. Change must be timed as to not disrupt elections. The redrawing process started anew a year ago. Who knew there was so much red tape to assuring Sunrise residents could vote where they live instead of trundling off to Sandy Run Middle School; to closing some polls where it’s not unusual to have less than 100 people vote in 13 hours; or to smoothing out some lines that only could have made sense to scheming politicians.

As of 4/16/15, all realignment is now approved and will be in effect for the 5/19/15 primary election. Now the public must be notified. Those who have any change will receive a new registration card from county Voter Services. If you get no new card, you vote where you’re accustomed to voting. If you get a new card, pay attention to what it says. You may be changing where you vote or you may just be called 6-1 instead of 6-3 or 5-2 instead of 5-1. Hopefully new locations will improve on old ones in parking, accessibility, and proximity.

If you wish to see a new map, go to the township website. Voter Services 610-278-3275 can give correct information by phone as can UD Township. The website of UDDems.org also has correct locations of polls and which streets are in which district.

Wards 1 & 2 have NO CHANGE. Ward 3 hasNO CHANGE except the addition of some voters from Ward 6. Ward 4: 4-3 moves from Sunrise to MarThoma Church on Camp Hill Rd near Highland. 4-1 and 4-2 have no changes. Ward 5 has been reconfigured. Do what your new registration card tells you. Ward 6 nowhas 2 voting sites. 6-2 is at Supplee as always. 6-1 and 6-3 are combined into 6-1 and vote at Temple Sinai. Properties immediately adjacent to Zieger will be notified to vote at Jarrettown Methodist on Limekiln Pike and be in 3-1. Ward 7 is unchanged except 125 voters will be in 7-1 at Congregation Beth Or instead of 7-2 @ Our Lady of Mercy.  Those people being changed will receive notice by mail from Montco Voter services. 7-3 is unchanged.

 

Young Voters & Absentee Ballots

If there is an 18-24 year-old D or I voter in your house, you probably got a phone message recently about voting in the Tuesday, 11/4/14 election. That’s because many in this age-group fail to vote because it’s not on their radar until too late. Because many are away from “home” studying, traveling or working, they cannot vote in person and need to arrange to vote by mail. Voting via Absentee Ballots is easy but there are required steps which take time to accomplish.

First step is to register to vote. If already registered, next is to apply for an absentee ballot. This can be done in person at Montco Voter Services or via USPS by mailing in a completed request form. The address in Norristown is on form. Using the form, the voter designates where his/her ballot should be sent (email address or FAX if overseas or military or PO address anywhere in US). Depending on date of application, ballots are sent beginning late Sept or early Oct. Keep an eye out for a white envelope with blue & red writing. With the ballot are instructions and everything needed to vote except a stamp. Vote the ballot and make sure it’s back in Norristown by 10/31/14. That’s it. With the help of our young voters we can assure Tom Corbett a well-deserved retirement from government.

Marjorie Berlinghof