2020 PRIMARY ELECTION VOTER GUIDE
OFFICES AND BALLOT QUESTIONS
The Pennsylvania primary election is June 2, postponed from April 28 through emergency legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This new law and the historic election reform package passed last year install critical voting procedures, including the option for ANY voter to vote by mail and extending the voter registration deadline to 15 days prior to Election day. Visit VotesPA.com for the latest information on how to register and cast a ballot.
Seventy’s Voter Guide provides reliable information up and down the ballot on the offices, candidates and ballot questions. To learn more about the candidates and build your own ballot, visit: ballot.seventy.org.
Offices on the ballot in the 2020 primary election include:
- President of the United States
- All 18 PA seats in the U.S. House of Representatives;
- All 203 seats in the PA House of Representatives;
- Odd-numbered districts in the 50-seat PA Senate; and
- Attorney General, Auditor General and Treasurer of Pennsylvania
Ballot questions may also be on the ballot in your area. Philadelphia voters will see two (2) ballot questions about proposed changes to the city’s Home Rule Charter.
Because Pennsylvania holds closed primaries, ONLY registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates in primary elections. Independent and third-party voters can vote on ballot questions but are barred from voting for candidates until the November general election.
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.
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.
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 andPennsylvania 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pennsylvania will send 210 delegates to the Democrat National Convention, 186 of whom will be elected by voters and pledged to presidential candidates based on their performances in the primary (15% of the vote is the threshold for winning delegates). The other 24 will be chosen by party leaders and will be officially uncommitted, but will not be allowed to vote on the first ballot at the convention. Nationally, there will be 4,750 delegates, 3,979 of whom will be pledged. To win the nomination on the first ballot, a candidate must be supported by 1,990 delegates; for subsequent ballots it would be 2,375. See the Democratic Party’s delegate rules.
Pennsylvania will send 88 delegates to the Republican National Convention, 54 of whom will be elected by voters (three from each of the state’s 18 congressional districts). The other 34 will be bound on the first ballot to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in the primary election. Nationally, there will be 2,552 delegates, and to win the nomination, a candidate must be supported by 1,276 delegates. See the Republican Party's delegate rules.
QUESTION 1: CREATING A NEW DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create a Department of Labor, headed by a Cabinet-level Director, to enforce City laws that protect Philadelphia workers; to oversee labor relations, such as collective bargaining, with the City’s unionized workforce; to investigate compliance with worker protections set forth in City contracts; and to manage programs concerning City employees; and to create a Board of Labor Standards to review and adjudicate matters arising from such work?
Plain English Statement (required by the PA 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 creates a Department of Labor and a Board of Labor Standards.
The City has an Office of Labor now that was created by Executive Order of the Mayor. If the Office is established as a Department in the City’s Charter, it becomes more permanent. The Office of Labor would continue to:
- Enforce City laws that protect Philadelphia workers;
- Oversee the City’s labor relations, such as collective bargaining, with the City’s unionized workforce;
- Investigate compliance with worker protections in City contracts; and
- Manage programs concerning City employees.
The City also has a Board of Labor Standards, created by an ordinance of City Council. If the Board is established in the Charter, it becomes more permanent. The Board of Labor Standards hears cases and appeals related to the Department of Labor’s enforcement of workers’ rights.
QUESTION 2: REVISING POLITICAL ACTIVITY RULES FOR CITY EMPLOYEES OUTSIDE WORK
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to revise rules pertaining to prohibited activities of appointed City officers and employees, to generally allow such officers and employees to volunteer for state and federal political campaigns outside of work time and without using City resources; to continue to prohibit participation in any political campaign for a City office or Philadelphia-based state office; and to revise penalty provisions pertaining to such restrictions and prohibited activities generally?
Plain English Statement (required by the PA Election Code)
The City’s Home Rule Charter, which is like the City’s constitution, prohibits most City officials and employees from taking part in the conduct of anyone’s political campaign for any elected office, whether local, state or federal. These are known as the Charter’s political activities restrictions. The Charter also sets forth certain penalties for a violation of these and other restrictions that pertain to City officials and employees.
This proposed amendment to the City’s Charter would remove such restrictions for most City officers and employees with respect to certain political campaigns. Under the new rule, such officers and employees generally could participate in volunteer activity in support of candidates for federal offices and in support of candidates for many state offices. City officers and employees generally would remain restricted from participating in campaigns for Philadelphia offices and from participating in campaigns for state representatives, state senators and local judges for whom Philadelphia voters cast votes.
Officers and employees in these offices and departments would still be prohibited from engaging in political activities: Sheriff, City Commissioners, District Attorney, Police and the Board of Ethics. All City officers and employees would continue to be prohibited from using City resources, City work time or City titles for political activities.
The Charter change would also allow for greater monetary penalties for violations of these and other related restrictions and greater flexibility with respect to the imposition of penalties such as employee discipline.
If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the Charter to revise the political activities restrictions and penalty provisions in these respects.
The Committee of Seventy SUPPORTS this proposed amendment. See our testimony.