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Seventy's Digital Ballot Tool is back for the November 5th general election. Powered by CivicEngine, the tool allows voters to compile their candidate choices and ballot question answers before heading to the polls. Build your ballot and share with your network!

 

Unofficial Candidate List - November 5th General Election
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The only statewide offices on ballots across Pennsylvania in 2019 are two seats on the Superior Court. Candidates are Amanda Green-Hawkins (D), Megan McCarthy King (R), Daniel McCaffery (D) and Christylee Peck (R). Find candidate ratings from the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

In addition, the terms of sitting Superior Court judges Anne E. Lazarus and Judith Ference Olsen, and Commonwealth Court judges P. Kevin Brobson and Patricia McCullough expire at the end of 2019, and they’re running in nonpartisan retention elections to remain in office for another 10-year term. Find candidate retention ratings from the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
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In Philadelphia, voters will elect a Mayor, all 17 seats on City Council (10 district and seven at-large), Register of WillsSheriff and the three City Commissioners, as well as new judges on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court. Ten Common Pleas Court judges and five Municipal Court judges are running in nonpartisan retention elections. There will also be three ballot questions.

Find Philadelphia Bar Association ratings for the local judicial candidates.

Mayor

According to Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter, “executive and administrative power of the City, as it now exists, shall be exclusively vested in and exercised by a Mayor and such other officers, departments, boards and commissions as are designated and authorized in this charter.” The mayor, who appoints those officers, department heads and board and commission members, also presides over a $4.7 billion budget more than 25,000 City employees. He or she must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the U.S. and a three-year resident of Philadelphia. The mayor serves a four-year term and can be reelected once. The salary is $218,000.

City Council

City Council, Philadelphia’s 17-member legislative body, enacts bills by majority vote, which are then signed into law by the mayor, who is also empowered to veto them. But Council can override a mayoral veto with a two-thirds vote. Council also holds hearings. Of the 17 Council members, seven are elected “at-large” (by voters from throughout Philadelphia) and 10 from districts. Of the seven at-large members, no more than five can be from the political party with the largest number of registered voters in the city. There are no party restrictions on district members. All members must be at least 25 years old, be U.S. citizens and residents of the City for at least one year. (District members must have lived in their districts for a year.) Terms are four years, and there are no term limits. The Council president’s salary is $164,000. Members’ salaries begin at $130,668.

To learn more about City Council, click here for Seventy's How City Council Works Guide.

City Commissioners

According to the Office of the City Commissioners website, “The Philadelphia City Commissioners are a three-member bipartisan board of elected officials in charge of elections and voter registration for the City of Philadelphia.” Also known as the Board of Elections, the Commissioners “set and enforce department policies to administer voter registration and conduct elections in accordance with federal and state voter registration and election laws.” No more than two City Commissioners can be from the political party with the largest number of registered voters in the city. The Commissioners must be at least 25 years old, citizens of the U.S. and three-year residents of Philadelphia. They are elected citywide to four-year terms. There are no term limits. Primary voters may vote for two candidates. The Commission chair’s salary is $140,000. Other commissioners earn $130,668.

Register of Wills

Philadelphia’s Register of Wills is responsible for probating wills and granting letters of administration when persons die without leaving a will. The office also maintains records of wills, inventories of estates and similar documents and serves as an agent for the state for filing and payment of inheritance taxes. The office’s other important function is to issue marriage licenses.

The register of wills, who is elected citywide to a four-year term, must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the U.S. and a one-year resident of Philadelphia. There are no term limits. The salary is $130,668.

Sheriff

Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office provides security in First Judicial Court (Philadelphia) courtrooms and manages court-ordered property foreclosures and tax sales. The sheriff, who is elected citywide to a four-year term, must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the U.S. and a one-year resident of Philadelphia. There are no term limits. There are no term limits. The salary is $130,668.

Philadelphia 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 for seats on the Court of Common Pleas 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.

Philadelphia Municipal Court

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.

Ballot Questions

PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to grant certain rights to crime victims, including to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity; considering their safety in bail proceedings; timely notice and opportunity to take part in public proceedings; reasonable protection from the accused; right to refuse discovery requests made by the accused; restitution and return of property; proceedings free from delay; and to be informed of these rights, so they can enforce them?

Passage of this statewide measure would enshrine in the Pennsylvania Constitution certain rights to protect crime victims, some of which already exist in statute through the PA Crime Victims Act of 1998. The proposed constitutional amendment includes more than a dozen rights including restitution, the right to be notified of proceedings involving the accused, and “reasonable protection” from the accused. The language has been adapted from “Marsy’s Law” – a model “bill of rights” for crime victims that that has been promoted nationally by Henry Nicholas, whose sister Marsy was murdered in 1983.

According to Ballotpedia, versions of Marsy’s Law have been approved by voters in all 12 states where it has been on the ballot (though two state courts have blocked it). Pennsylvania’s proposed amendment passed unanimously in the state Senate in June 2019 after the House approved it in April by a 190-8 vote. Governor Wolf has also endorsed the proposal, but the American Civil Liberties Union is opposed because it would “threaten long-established constitutional protections for the accused, including the presumption of innocence, the right to a speedy trial, the right to confront one's accuser, and the right to effective assistance of counsel, among others,” Elizabeth Randol, the ACLU of PA’s legislative director, told PennLive. For more, see this explainer from PA Post and listen in to their State of the State podcast episode on the issue.

See the “Plain English Statement” provided by the Office of Attorney General.

BOND QUESTION

Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS ($185,000,000.00) 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?

This bond question, if approved by the voters, would authorize the City to borrow $185,000,000 for capital purposes, which means that the funding would be used to purchase or maintain something with long-term value. This could include, for example, acquisitions of real estate, or construction of or improvements to buildings, streets and other infrastructure.

Local and state governments typically issue bonds for major projects or purchases which will have a useful life that extends multiple years and when there is not sufficient cash on hand – not unlike when an individual seeks a home mortgage or auto loan. Those taxpayers who will be paying the interest and principal on the bond over time will also, generally, be the same taxpayers who enjoy the benefit of the long-term investment. On the other hand, an increase in the City’s indebtedness also increases the portion of the budget that goes to debt service instead of other City services.

The funds from this bond issue would be used by the City for Transit ($4.8m); Streets and Sanitation ($45.6m); Municipal Buildings ($88m); Parks, Recreation and Museums ($25.9m); and Economic and Community Development ($20.7m), as specified in Bill No. 190431, approved by City Council on June 20, 2019. City Council would have authority, by ordinance, to change the intended allocation of these proceeds.

See the “Plain English Statement” provided by the Law Department of Philadelphia.

PROPOSED PHILADELPHIA CITY CHARTER CHANGE

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to revise City procurement procedures by increasing the sealed bidding threshold; by providing for procurement from local businesses; and by providing for Procurement Department regulations?

If Philadelphia voters approve this amendment to the Home Rule Charter, the threshold for formal bidding on certain City contracts will be raised from $34,000 to $100,000 for local businesses and $75,000 for others. Contract opportunities above this threshold go through a more extensive, sealed-bidding process and are awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder.” Contracts below this threshold are processed as “small order purchases” in which City agencies issue quotes for various goods or services, ranging from food concessions to IT support to janitorial services.

Philadelphia’s current threshold of $34,000 is higher than Pennsylvania government ($20,600) but significantly lower than other major cities. San Diego and Portland run among the highest at $150,000, while Chicago and New York City are at $100,000 (same as the federal government), and Baltimore, Boston and Washington, D.C come in at $50,000.

The proposed change is part of the City’s Local Business Purchasing Initiative to make small, local businesses more competitive by relieving them of extensive paperwork for relatively small contracts. The efforts are further intended to increase contracting opportunities, in particular, for firms owned by ethnic minorities, women and disabled persons (those certified as M/W/DSBE), and to return a larger portion of City procurement spending to the local economy -- $0.50 for every dollar spent, by one estimate. More than 800 contracts under $100,000 and worth a total of $15 million were awarded in FY 2018.

This proposal was introduced by Council member Derek Green and passed unanimously in June with backing from the Kenney administration and Sustainable Business Network.

The Committee of Seventy also supports this proposed Charter amendment, given our mission for ethical and effective government. City and state ethics laws guarding against fraud and abuse would continue to apply, but clear rules and robust training – both for procurement administrators and vendors – remain critical to ensure the integrity of the process and that it yields the intended results. Overall, this proposal should bring Philadelphia in line with other major cities and procurement best practices, increasing efficiency in small-contracting processes while promising to benefit M/W/DSBE businesses and keeping more tax dollars in the City.

See the “Plain English Statement” provided by the Law Department of Philadelphia.

 

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


For more information about Pennsylvania voting procedures, visit EveryoneVotes.PA.com.

For questions about Seventy's Voter Guide, please contact bettergov@seventy.org.