November 3, 2020 General ELECTION voter guide

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Below are descriptions of the offices that will be on the ballot in the 2020 general election:


​Ballot questions may also be on the ballot in your area. Philadelphia voters will see four (4) ballot questions. Three are proposed changes to the city’s Home Rule Charter and one is a bond question.

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

The President of the United States is both the head of state and of government, in addition to commander-in-chief of the armed forces. With powers enumerated in Article II of the Constitution, the president leads the executive branch of the federal government, responsible for executing and enforcing the laws created by Congress, conducting foreign policy, and making a wide range of federal, regulatory, diplomatic and judicial appointments, including to the U.S. Supreme Court. The president can serve no more than two four-year terms and has an annual salary of $400,000.

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

The U.S. House of Representatives shares responsibility for lawmaking with the U.S. Senate but is organized differently and has different rules and procedures. The allocation of the House’s 435 seats is based on the population within the states, and membership is reapportioned every 10 years, following the decennial census. Pennsylvania currently has 18 seats. House members are elected for two-year terms from single-member districts of approximately equal population (roughly 710,000 in 2010). The salary is $174,000 and there are no term limits.

PA ATTORNEY GENERAL 

Pennsylvania’s chief law enforcement officer, the Attorney General is responsible for prosecuting criminal charges brought by the Commonwealth, as well as civil litigation on behalf of some, but not all, state agencies. The office also provides civil enforcement of some Commonwealth laws, including those involving consumer protection and charities. The Attorney General represents the state government in actions brought by or against it, and reviews all proposed rules and regulations by state agencies. The Attorney General also sits on several state boards and commissioners including the Board of Pardons, Board of Finance and Revenue and Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The Attorney General can serve no more than two four-year terms and has an annual salary of $168,000.

PA AUDITOR GENERAL

The Auditor General is the Commonwealth’s chief fiscal watchdog, responsible for conducting audits to ensure that state funds spent legally and properly. Such audits may be focused on ensuring the accuracy and reliability of state financial records or on the performance of government programs, evaluating to what extent objectives are being met efficiently and effectively. Issues or areas of examination have included, for example, school districts, local pension funds, corporate tax returns and federal funds spent by the state government.  The Auditor General can serve up to two four-year terms and the annual salary is $168,000.

PA TREASURER

The Pennsylvania Treasury is an independent department led by the state Treasurer, whose  primary duty is to safeguard and manage nearly $100 billion in state funds. The department invests state money to generate income on behalf of citizens, reviews and processes payments for state government agencies and administers several programs related to state finances, including the Unclaimed Property Program and the PA 529 College Savings Program. The Treasurer can serve a maximum of two successive four-year terms, and cannot serve as Auditor General for four years after leaving the office of Treasurer. The salary is $168,000.

PA SENATE

Pennsylvania’s 50 state senators are elected to four-year terms from districts with approximately 250,000 residents apiece. Although state senatorial districts are several times larger than state representative districts, the legislative functions of the two bodies are similar. In order for proposed legislation to become law, both the House and Senate must pass it before the Governor has an opportunity to sign or veto. The State Senate also confirms numerous gubernatorial nominations, including to cabinet posts, state university boards and to fill judicial vacancies. There are no term limits and the base salary is $103,000.

PA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Members of the lower chamber of the legislature, state representatives each serve a local constituency of approximately 62,500 residents. Although state House districts are much smaller than state senatorial districts, the legislative functions of the two bodies are similar. In order for proposed legislation to become law, both the House and Senate must approve it. Revenue bills, in particular, must originate in the House, as happens in Congress. Members are elected for two-year terms in even-numbered years. The base salary is $90,000 and there are no term limits.

PHILADELPHIA BALLOT QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: STOP & FRISK

We, the citizens of Philadelphia, call upon the Police Department to eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent, meaning an officer must have reasonable suspicion that a person is engaged in criminal activity in order to stop that person, and, therefore, an officer cannot stop someone unlawfully because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or expression, or other protected characteristic.

Plain English Statement (required by the Pennsylvania Election Code)

The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government.

If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the City’s Charter so that it sets forth a statement that calls upon the Police Department to end the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk.

The statement would elaborate on the constitutional limitations on police stops. It would state that for a stop and frisk to be constitutional, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is engaged in criminal activity. It would also state that an officer cannot, under the law, stop someone because of that person’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or expression, or other protected characteristic.

QUESTION 2: VICTIM ADVOCATE

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create the Office of the Victim Advocate to advocate for crime victims and to work with victim-services providers to coordinate, plan, train, educate, and investigate issues relating to crime victims?

PLAIN ENGLISH STATEMENT (REQUIRED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION CODE)

The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government.

If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the City’s Charter so that it establishes an Office of the Victim Advocate.

If the Office is created, it would be headed by the Victim Advocate, who would be appointed by the Mayor with the advice and consent of City Council. The responsibilities of the Office would include the following:

  • Advocating for victims of crimes, as individuals and as a group;
  • Ensuring that crime victims know their rights;
  • Promoting cooperation among agencies that serve crime victims; and
  • Providing training and support to agencies that interact with crime victims.


QUESTION 3: POLICE COMMISSION

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for the creation of a Citizens Police Oversight Commission, and to authorize City Council to determine the composition, powers and duties of the Commission?

PLAIN ENGLISH STATEMENT (REQUIRED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION CODE)

The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government. If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the Charter so that it creates a Citizens Police Oversight Commission.

The City currently has an oversight body called the Police Advisory Commission, created by the Mayor, which the Mayor could eliminate. With this Charter change, the Citizens Police Oversight Commission would be a permanent part of City government. City Council would determine how members are selected for the Oversight Commission and would establish the Commission’s specific powers, consistent with its mission, which could be substantially broader than the advisory role of the Police Advisory Commission.

The Commission’s mission would be to:

  • Evaluate and work to improve police officer conduct, including by improving investigations of alleged misconduct;
  • Make clearer the officer disciplinary process and the process for submitting and considering citizen complaints of police misconduct;
  • Help hold the Police Department accountable for officers’ actions; and
  • Improve communication between the Police Department and the community.


QUESTION 4: BOND ISSUE

Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED THIRTYFOUR MILLION DOLLARS ($134,000,000.00) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?

PLAIN ENGLISH STATEMENT (REQUIRED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION CODE)

This ballot question, if approved by the voters, would authorize the City to borrow $134,000,000 for capital purposes, thereby increasing the City’s indebtedness by $134,000,000. Capital purposes means, generally, to make expenditures that will result in something of value with a useful life to the City of more than five years, for example, acquisitions of real estate, or construction of or improvements to buildings, property or streets.

The money to be borrowed would be used by the City for five identified purposes, namely, Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development, all in specific amounts identified in Bill No. 200298 (approved June 26, 2020). City Council would have authority, by ordinance, to change the intended allocation by moving proceeds from one category to any of the other categories listed.

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