Ballot questions await voters Nov. 8
Statewide referendum asks about retirement age for judges; 2 Chester County municipalities also have questions on ballot
A referendum asking voters if they want 75 to be the mandatory age of retirement for judges in Pennsylvania will appear on the ballot Nov. 8, though the wording has been in dispute since before the primary.
The language in the ballot question has been challenged for neglecting to state that the current mandatory retirement age is 70, so that a “yes” vote means extending the amount of time a judge could serve by five years.
If the ballot question is approved, justices, judges and magisterial district judges would be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they turn 75.
The proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution was initially slated to run on the primary ballot. The wording asked if voters wanted to change the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75, but the Republicanled Legislature voted to change the wording, leaving out the current retirement age, and put it on the general election ballot in November.
The new mandatory age requirement would apply to all 1,027 state judges, of whom 19 will turn 70 in 2016, Jim Koval, spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, had said when the controversy began last spring.
At the highest level, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Saylor will turn 70 this year, and Supreme Court Justice Max Baer turns 70 next year.
Those who have challenged the wording say it is intended to deceive voters.
The state Supreme Court deadlocked on making a decision on a legal challenge filed by former state Supreme Court Justices Ronald D. Castille and Stephen Zappala Sr. and Philadelphia lawyer Richard A. Sprague, and the case is currently pending in Commonwealth Court. As of Oct. 6, the court had not issued an opinion.
Other ballot questions
In addition to the statewide ballot question, two Chester County municipalities and two Montgomery County townships will be asking voters to weigh in on referendums specific to their jurisdictions.
Newlin Township voters will be asked to vote on a referendum to increase real estate property taxes by 0.15 mills, or 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to be used to purchase open space.
In Malvern Borough ,a ballot question will ask if residents want to limit the amount of time a person would be permitted to serve on borough council.
The proposed revision would prohibit any person from running for borough council for more than two consecutive terms. After serving two elected terms, a person would not be eligible for re-election to a third term. It would also prohibit any person from being appointed to two consecutive unexpired terms or serving any part of three consecutive terms by appointment or election.
The change would apply to both the current and future members of borough council.
Voters in Lower Moreland Township will be asked if they would agree to increase the earned income tax by 0.25 percent to be used to purchase open space, recreation, park and historical lands, and develop and maintain the open space.
The existing 1 percent earned income tax is split between the township and school district, and the additional quarter percent would go into a designated open space fund, according to township Manager Christopher Hoffman. It is estimated the additional 0.25 percent would generate between $800,000 and $900,000 annually, he said.
In Upper Providence Township, voters will be asked whether or not they want to add two supervisors to the Upper Providence Board of Supervisors, expanding it from the current three-member board to a five-member board.
The referendum was placed on the ballot through a petition, signed by 900 township residents, generated by Upper Providence First, a political action committee formed by township residents Jim White, former Supervisor John Pearson and Tax Collector Julie Mullin, according to White. The reason to expand the board is threefold, he said: Upper Providence, with 23,000 residents, “is the fastest-growing township in Pennsylvania;” surrounding townships have five-member boards — Horsham has five members and 26,000 residents; and “there is a lot going on in the township and there are some conflicts of interest.”
The chairman of the board is married to the head of parks and recreation, for example, so he can’t vote on that part of the budget, White said.
“The board is discussing a $10 million loan to redo the township building, and we felt on top of the growth, with what’s going on and the money they’re looking to spend, two additional eyes are needed on everything,” White said.