ballot questions

Pa. GOP Lawmakers Push Ballot Questions Redefining Emergency Powers

The Republican majority in Pennsylvania's General Assembly wants to wrest control from the governor's office over the powers of emergency declarations.

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Republican leaders of Pennsylvania's legislature have put forth two ballot questions that would amend the constitution to shift authority over the length of emergency declarations from governors to lawmakers.

But as the May 18 election nears, some of those Republicans are now saying that Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is trying to sabotage ballot questions.

The measures arose from Republican lawmakers’ strident disagreement with how Wolf, a Democrat, has handled the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers said Wolf's administration purposely wrote the questions with wording designed to scare voters into rejecting them. A majority of Pennsylvania voters, however, have never rejected a ballot question, according to Ballotpedia. Between 1995 and 2019, 17 of 17 ballot questions have been approved by voters, according to the online election portal.

“We respect the voters, we think they'll see through it, they’ll understand it and we hope to do our best to educate them on it,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre.

Wolf's office said the wording in the ballot questions “fairly, accurately and clearly apprise the voter of the issue to be voted on.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the proposals heading to the ballot. Wolf opposes them, but governors have no power to prevent proposals to amend the constitution from going on the ballot for voters to consider.

Courts have nearly unanimously backed Wolf’s use of emergency powers to impose social-distancing restrictions, close buildings or limit business activity during the pandemic. Wolf’s administration maintains that the proposed amendments will not affect those powers because they rest on the state’s Disease Prevention and Control Act.

The questions are scheduled to appear on Pennsylvania’s May 18 primary ballot. All registered voters in Pennsylvania, whether affiliated with a political party or not, are able to vote on the questions.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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