5 items we will not be voting on in November
During the past several month or so, you may have noticed full-page ads in daily newspapers giving notice to five joint resolutions that propose amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution.
If you stopped to look them over, you might have come to the erroneous conclusion that they have something to do with the Nov. 8 General Election.
Several friends who saw them asked me whether they are going to be on the ballot. The answer is no. These resolutions were passed, mostly along party lines, during the current legislative session, but they have to be passed again in the coming session, which begins on Dec. 1.
If any or all survive this legislative process, then we voters will get a yes-or-no shot at them in an election after the second passage, possibly as early as the 2023 primaries. If this becomes the case, even those of us who are not affiliated with one of the two major political parties will be allowed to vote on the amendments only in our closed primaries.
To adopt an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the General Assembly must pass a resolution stating the proposal, then have it advertised in daily newspapers, then approve it again in the next legislative session, and advertise it again, after which it goes to the voters.
This cumbersome amendment process is by design to head off knee-jerk reaction and to give our legislative leaders (and ourselves, for that matter) an opportunity to reflect on making key changes to this most important document.
Here are the five proposals that we voters might be considering in 2023:
• The constitution does not grant the right to taxpayer-funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion. (A “yes” vote would not ban abortions but would restrict the use of public money in financing them, especially for poor or indigent women.)
• Require candidates for lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket as gubernatorial candidates in the primary. As it is now, lieutenant governor candidates are nominated in the primary separately from gubernatorial nominees, but then they run as a team in the general election. This means it is possible to have candidates who are not compatible with each other as we saw with Democrats Gov. Tom Wolf and Lieutenant Gov. Mike Stack during Wolf’s first term.
• An individual for whom a statutory limitations period has already expired, or whose claim would otherwise be barred or limited by a statutory cap on damages, sovereign immunity or by governmental or official immunity, will have a period of two years, without bar or limitation by such caps or immunities, from the time that this subsection becomes effective to begin an action arising from childhood sexual abuse. This proposed amendment was to have been on the ballot in a previous election, but a screw-up by the Pennsylvania Department of State precluded it from happening, and, in the process, led to the resignation of Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar in 2021.
• A qualified elector must provide a valid identification at each election when voting in person. When not voting in person, the qualified elector must provide proof of a valid identification with his or her ballot. If qualified electors do not possess a valid identification, they can, upon request and confirmation of identity, be furnished with a government-issued identification at no cost. For purposes of this section, the term “valid identification” means an unexpired government-issued identification, unless otherwise provided for by law. One section of this proposal has caused confusion. Pennsylvania’s Constitution still lists the minimum voting age at 21, rather than 18, which is the national standard that supersedes state regulations.
• The General Assembly shall by law provide for the auditing of elections and election results by the state auditor general. In years when the auditor general stands for election to any office, an independent auditor will conduct the audit.
The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.