Op-Ed: Voting is critical for everyone

Ballot Questions Make Voting on May 18th Critical for all of Us

Tuesday, May 18th is the date of our municipal primary election; and it gives a rare opportunity for Independents and those registered in a third party to have a say in a Pennsylvania primary election.

Aside from the regular races for Judges and local officials for which voting will be limited to Republicans and Democrats; there are four important ballot questions upon which everyone, regardless of political affiliation, can vote. So do not throw this opportunity away by staying home.

The ballot

The first three questions on the ballot are Proposed Amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution. All three have gone through a long legislative process including votes by the legislature; and after two approvals by both houses, they are now given to us for a final decision.  The Governor cannot stop the process, so it is now up to us to decide.

No doubt you have received postal mailings or emails about the first three ballot questions. So even before you read the sometimes-confusing language contained on the printed ballot, you have questions. I am going to try to cut through the confusion and offer my advice on how to vote on each.

The first two Amendments are straight forward. They deal with the Governor’s authority to issue and re-issue a disaster emergency declaration; like we have experienced over the last year-plus of the COVID19 Pandemic. 

Governor Wolf, just as his fellow liberal governors, has abused his authority to maintain a state of emergency for a seemingly endless period using his own set of arbitrary, and sometimes unknown rules.  The first two proposed constitutional amendments would place limits on this power going forward by giving the General Assembly the authority to terminate any disaster emergency declaration by a concurrent vote of both legislative houses.

Amendment 1

Proposed Amendment 1 states that the legislature or General Assembly would be able to terminate an emergency disaster declaration at any time if a majority in both the State Senate and State House of Representatives voted to do so.  We should all vote YES on question 1.

Amendment 2

Proposed Amendment 2 states that any emergency disaster declaration will expire after 21 days unless extended by the General Assembly; and that the Governor may not circumvent the law by simply declaring a new disaster declaration. We should all vote YES on question 2.

Amendment 3

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 3 looks innocent enough but looks can be deceiving. It asks if a new section should be added to the constitution that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity.” 

First, adding this section would be unnecessary since existing federal laws prohibit discrimination against anyone because of race as well as other factors.

The key word added here is “ETHNICITY” which is ill-defined. While “race” is a narrow term based on similar physical and biological attributes, “ethnicity” is a broad term and based on cultural expression or place of origin. It is subject to wide interpretation.

This proposed amendment has an eerie resemblance to the unnecessary “racial equity” nonsense being pushed by the PA Black Caucus in Harrisburg or the equally unnecessary drive for a LGBTQ+ non-discrimination ordinance in Chambersburg.

Approving Question 3 would reach far beyond the intent of existing non-discrimination laws and would invite endless litigation. The Democrats are telling their voters to support this one, so we should all vote NO on question 3.

Statewide referendum

Question 4 is not a constitutional amendment but is a statewide referendum.

Right now, volunteer fire, ambulance, and rescue services are authorized under law to borrow from the state’s loan program for purchasing or upgrading equipment and apparatus.

This question, if approved, would allow paid municipal fire, ambulance and EMS services, common to large cities, to be eligible to incur debt under that same program.

My concern is that if passed, this may “crowd out” smaller services in favor of larger paid services in a finite pool of money.  Most of us here are served by volunteer departments who we support locally; and question 4 would not help them.

Large services already enjoy the benefit of paid staff and publicly funded equipment; so unless more info is forthcoming on the possible effects of this question on volunteer services, I am recommending voting NO on question 4.

Dwight Weidman is a resident of Greene Township and is a graduate of Shepherd University, and a US Department of Defense retiree.  His career included assignments In Europe, Asia and Central America. He has been in leadership roles for the Republican Party in two states; most recently serving two terms as Chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. Weidman has been involved in web publishing since 1996 and is publisher of The Franklin County Journal. He has been an Amateur Radio Operator since 1988, getting his first license in Germany. He is a past volunteer with both Navy and Army MARS; Military Auxiliary Radio Service, and is also an NRA-Certified Firearms Instructor.

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