MAY 18, 2021 PRIMARY ELECTION VOTER GUIDE
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In addition to the statewide races and ballot questions, which can be found here, registered Philadelphia County Republicans and Democrats will select nominees for District Attorney and City Controller, and to fill eight vacancies on the Court of Common Pleas and three on the Municipal Court. Also nominated will be candidates for Judge of Elections and Inspector of Election in the city’s 1703 voting divisions. In addition to the three statewide ballot questions, Philadelphia voters will see a local ballot question as well.
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is the largest prosecutor's office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. It is organized into six divisions: Executive/Administration, Trials, Investigations, Juvenile, Law and Gun Trafficking/Community Engagement. The District Attorney's Office is responsible for prosecution of more than 50,000 criminal cases yearly. The District Attorney serves a four-year term with no term limits. The annual salary (2019) was $182,184.
The City Controller is the Chief Auditor of the City of Philadelphia and the School District. The City Controller is independent of the Mayor and City Council and is charged with auditing their operations. The Controller also evaluates the five-year plans the city submits to PICA, investigates accusations of mismanagement and fraud among city agencies, employees and contractors. In addition, the Controller sits on the city’s Board of Pensions and Retirement, Gas Commission (which oversees the Philadelphia Gas Works), Sinking Fund Commission (which oversees the investment of revenues paid into a fund for the payment of bond principal and investment of the PGW Retirement Reserve) and Bond Commission. Terms are four years with no term limits. The annual salary (2019) was $133,684.
Court of Common Pleas
The Courts of Common Pleas are Pennsylvania's courts of general trial jurisdiction. They have existed since the colonial charter of Pennsylvania, and are incorporated in the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas currently consists of judges, assigned in the Trial Court, Family Court and Orphans Court divisions. The Court of Common Pleas is supervised by a President Judge who is elected for a five-year term by the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas. Candidates must be residents of their districts for at least one year and members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Bar at the time of filing nomination petitions for office. Terms are for 10 years and the mandatory retirement age is 75. The annual salary is $188,665; $190,420 for the President Judge.
The Philadelphia Municipal Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, with law-trained Judges, and is responsible for trying criminal offenses carrying maximum sentences of incarceration of five years or less, civil cases in which the amount is $10,000 or less for Small Claims; unlimited dollar amounts in Landlord and Tenant cases; and $15,000 in real-estate and school-tax cases. The Municipal Court has initial jurisdiction in processing every adult criminal arrest in Philadelphia, and conducts preliminary hearings for most adult felony cases. Candidates for seats on the Municipal Court must be residents of their districts for at least one year and members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Bar at the time of filing nomination petitions for office. Terms are for six years and the mandatory retirement age is 75. The annual salary is $182,346; $185,163 for the President Judge.
Judge of Election and Inspector of Election
In Pennsylvania, three of the five people who run each polling place on Election Day are elected officials themselves. These positions are Judge of Election and Majority and Minority Inspectors of Election. In Philadelphia, they administer the elections in each of the 1703 divisions throughout the city. They number more than 8,500.
The Judge of Election has ultimate responsibility for the conduct of a polling place and the personnel working there, and must take an oath to admit only those voters who are properly registered and entitled to vote, to prevent fraud, deceit or abuse, and to make sure that all votes at the end of the day are accurately tabulated. The Judge is also responsible for opening and closing the polls, and for all the paperwork required on Election Day.
The Majority and Minority Inspectors are responsible for checking voters’ registration documents and preparing certificates to authorize voters to cast their ballots. They ensure that the voting process is legal and administered fairly by verifying the signatures of voters as they sign the poll book. The Inspectors are also responsible for checking to be sure the voting machine numbers are accurate at the end of the day.
Candidates must be 18 years old. Judges of Elections are paid $120 for working on Election Day and Inspectors $115. All are also paid $30 for attending a training session. For more about “working the polls,” see The Committee of Seventy’s How to Run for Election Officer guide.
Philadelphia Ballot Question
Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels?
Plain English Statement of the Law Department of the City of Philadelphia
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 the City’s Board of License and Inspection Review is expanded to have nine members and is allowed to hear and decide cases in groups of three members at a time.
The City has a Board of License and Inspection Review that hears appeals related to property maintenance violations and related to certain licenses and permits issued by the City. The Board currently has up to six members. A majority of the Board’s appointed members must participate to decide any case.
If this Charter change is adopted, the Board would be able to have up to nine members, and the Board Chair would be able to designate groups of three or more members to hear and decide any case, which potentially would allow the Board to hear cases more quickly than it does now.
IMPORTANT ELECTION DAY INFORMATION
Voters with questions or issues on Election Day should call the proper authorities:
For voter registration, polling location or other procedural issues 215-686-1590
Report potential election law violations to the Philadelphia District Attorney 215-686-9641