MAY 21, 2019 PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS
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One statewide office will appear on ballots across Pennsylvania in 2019: Registered Republicans and Democrats can vote in primary elections for Judge of the Superior Court. Here’s a list of candidates for the Superior Court compiled by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. And here are the PA Bar Association’s candidate ratings.
In Philadelphia, registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in primary elections for Mayor, all 17 seats on City Council (10 district and seven at-large), Register of Wills, Sheriff and the three City Commissioner slots, as well as judgeships on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court.
Here are Philadelphia Bar Association ratings for the local judicial candidates.
There will also be four ballot questions.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And all registered Philadelphia voters can vote on ballot issues that would (if passed) …
Create a new class of public-safety officer (Public-Safety Enforcement Officer)
Remove gender-specific language from the City Charter
Make the Office of Immigrant Affairs a permanent part of city government
Call on the state to raise the minimum wage
1. Remove gender-specific language from the City Charter
Ballot Question: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to change certain gender specific references (such as “councilman,” “councilmen,” and “Councilmanic”) to gender neutral references (such as “councilmember,” “councilmembers,” and “Council”)?
Official Statement: The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government. It was originally written in 1951. If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the Charter so that the people who serve on City Council will be identified in gender neutral terms. As a practical matter, this means the Charter will call them “Councilmembers” instead of “Councilmen.” Also, whenever the Charter says “Councilmanic,” it would be changed to “Council.”
Seventy’s Take: This proposed amendment to the Home Rule Charter was introduced by Council member Derek Green, and City Council passed it unanimously. But approval would not remove all gender references from the Charter. Currently, the chairs of various boards and commissions are referred to as “chairmen,” and changing that would require another ballot question. A spokesperson for Council-member Green told Philly.com in February that he plans to pursue this issue following the vote on this question.
Other cities and states have made similar changes in their laws, including New York, which removed gender-specific language from their state constitution in 2001. And similar measures were approved last year in Nashville, TN and Baltimore County, MD.
2. Office of Immigrant Affairs
Ballot Question: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to establish and define the functions of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, headed by a Director of Immigrant Affairs?
Official Statement: 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 an Office of Immigrant Affairs. The City has an Office of Immigrant Affairs now, but it was created by a Mayor’s Executive Order. If it is put into the Charter, the Office becomes more formal and permanent. The Office would: develop City policies regarding issues that affect immigrant communities; help City agencies to make it easier for non-English speakers to use City services; work to make sure that immigrants are treated fairly by all City agencies and employees; and serve as a link between the City and its immigrant communities.
Seventy’s Take: Mayor Jim Kenney created the Office of Immigrant Affairs by executive order in 2016, but passage of this measure would make it a more permanent part of City government. In 2014, Philadelphia voters approved a similar proposal that cemented Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office of Sustainabilty in the Charter. The OIA offers various language access plans, monthly legal clinics, after-school programs for youth and a citizenship-test preparation program. Similar offices exist in many major U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco.
According to a 2018 Pew report, Philadelphia’s fast–growing immigrant population stands at about 232,000, or approximately 15% of the city’s total population and 19 percent of its workers. The largest percentages come from Asia and Latin America (though the fastest growing group is Africans), and the largest concentration of immigrants can be found in South and Northeast Philadelphia.
3. A call to raise the minimum wage in Philadelphia
Ballot Question: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to call on the General Assembly to either increase the Pennsylvania minimum wage now, so that it reaches $15 an hour, in stages, by 2025; or allow the City of Philadelphia to itself provide for a decent, family sustaining, living wage for working Philadelphians?
Official Statement: If you vote "Yes" on this ballot question, it means that you would like to ask the State Government to do one of two things: either raise the minimum wage for the whole State, or allow Philadelphia to raise the minimum wage in the City. The goal would be to raise the wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, over the next six years. If this ballot question passes, the State Government in Harrisburg will not be required to raise the minimum wage. But, it would send a message that people in Philadelphia want to raise the minimum wage to a "decent, family sustaining, living wage."
Seventy’s Take: Since only the state can change the minimum wage for most private-sector workers, passage of this measure (sponsored by Council member Cherelle Parker) won’t raise anybody’s salary. If passed, a statement would be added to the Home Rule Charter (Article VIII, Chapter 5) to reflect that city voters want certain action from the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Five previously approved non-binding referenda are currently in the Charter, including, for example, calls for the redeployment of troops from Iraq and the dissolution of the School Reform Commission.
In 2014, Philadelphia voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that did raise the minimum wage for employees of many city subcontractors to $12 an hour. That was one of various minimum-wage referenda have appeared on ballots around the country in recent years. Last year, voters in Flagstaff, AZ, voted down a proposal to decrease that city’s minimum wage.
4. Public Safety Enforcement Officers
Ballot Question: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to require the establishment of “Public Safety Enforcement Officers” to assist the Police Department in regulating the flow of traffic; to enforce and assist the appropriate City officers in the enforcement of ordinances relating to the quality of life in the City’s neighborhoods; and to perform such other related duties as the Managing Director or Council may require?
Official Statement: 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 the City creates a new group of jobs called “Public Safety Enforcement Officers.” These new officers would do things like help the police with traffic control where busy intersections are blocked and elsewhere; and enforce laws relating to the quality of life in City neighborhoods. They would not have the power to arrest people or carry guns. The Charter currently says that officials who work for the Mayor decide how many people should be hired in their departments. If this ballot question passes, the Mayor’s Managing Director or City Council could decide how many Public Safety Enforcement Officers should be hired. The Managing Director would decide in which departments these officers will work.
Seventy’s Take: If voters approve this measure (sponsored by Council president Darrell Clarke you may soon see unarmed public safety officers on city streets, assisting police in an effort to unsnarl clogged traffic and deal with “quality of life” issues in Center City (e.g., double-parked delivery trucks) and other neighborhoods. Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., deploy similar officers on their streets, but the model seems to be the New York City Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Agents and its Auxiliary Police Force. The proposal has been endorsed by the Philadelphia Police Department, the Center City District and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. But the Fraternal Order of Police is opposed, expressing concern that the new Public Safety Enforcement Officer program could cost police jobs. The FOP also asserts that state law limits traffic-enforcement duty to police.
Registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates in their party's primary on May 21.
Unaffiliated and third party voters can vote on the ballot questions.
Before voting, Seventy recommends reviewing the 2019 candidate ratings produced by the Philadelphia Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission. Ratings are not currently available for all candidates but will be posted as candidate reviews are completed. Also visit PhillyJudges.com for additional information on local judicial candidates.
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.