What to Know
- The pandemic power struggle between Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor and its Republican-led legislature over the year plus of COVID-19 will land on voters’ laps next month.
- It's taking the form of two proposed constitutional amendments to limit the length of disaster emergencies. The election is May 18.
- Every registered voter in Pennsylvania can go to the polls May 18 and pick yes or no on each of the questions, even if a voter is not registered with a political party.
The primary race between Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and Democratic challenger Carlos Vega is getting some attention in the city, but statewide, all Pennsylvania voters are eligible to go to the polls and cast ballots on four ballot questions May 18.
Today is the deadline for voters to register to vote in the upcoming election or join a political party. Only registered Democrats or Republicans can vote on individual candidates like Krasner or Vega.
The deadline to register to vote or to change your party designation is 5 p.m. today for the traditional paper form and 11:59 p.m. for online applications. Voter applicants who haven't already mailed in their forms are recommended to use Pennsylvania's online voter registration system, or visit your county election office and fill out a form in person before the close of business.
Two of the four questions have to do with powers in a statewide emergency after Republicans in control of the legislature raged for months over Gov. Tom Wolf's use of emergency declarations to make wide-ranging decisions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wolf opposed the questions, but governors have no power to prevent proposals to amend the constitution from going on the ballot for voters to consider.
However, the questions themselves became a political fight earlier this year as Republican lawmakers accused the Wolf administration of making the ballot questions' wording potentially confusing for voters.
“They clearly wrote it in a way for it to fail,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, Republican of Centre County, said in February, arguing the state's disaster emergency has gone on too long. “Look, even a benevolent dictator is still a dictator. And when you have unilateral control, one individual, that’s what you have.”
Politics aside, Pennsylvanians have overwhelmingly favored approving ballot questions over the last few decades. A majority of Pennsylvania voters 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.
The third and fourth ballot questions pertain to whether voters would like to add equal rights protections to the state constitution and give paid fire departments the same money borrowing power as volunteer fire companies.
Vega is the lone challenger in the May 18 Democratic primary against Krasner, and he is making the election a referendum on Krasner's progressive reform agenda. Vega believes Krasner is a key contributor to Philadelphia historically high homicides and shootings since the start of 2020. Krasner and his supporters say national trends showing gun violence rising across the United States rebukes Vega's argument.
The candidates will make their case to Philadelphia voters on live television and radio May 5 during the lone debate between the two candidates ahead of the May 18 Democratic primary.
The debate will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. and moderated by NBC10 and KYW Newsradio reporters. It will also air live on NBC10.com and the NBC10 app as well as NBC10's Roku TV and Apple TV apps. It can be heard live on KYW Newsradio at 103.9 FM and 1060 AM.