Bal­lot ques­tion was dirty pol­i­tics, Pa. style

The real low point in Penn­syl­va­nia’s elec­tion was the con job the Leg­is­la­ture pulled off to trick vot­ers.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - — Erie Times-News

That’s not a good thing. It was em­blem­atic of our state’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture that can­di­dates for two of the three statewide row of­fices on the bal­lot had to make an is­sue of how they would free those of­fices from the taint of cor­rup­tion.

In the race for at­tor­ney gen­eral, the can­di­dates had to wres­tle with the im­pris­on­ment of dis­graced for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Kath­leen Kane for of­fi­cial mis­con­duct. That ar­guably wasn’t even the most wor­ri­some shadow hang­ing over the of­fice.

Kane’s fall came amid another scan­dal cen­ter­ing on lewd, sex­ist and racist emails that raised ques­tions about the in­tegrity of the state’s jus­tice sys­tem it­self.

And the two can­di­dates for state trea­surer faced the specter of clean­ing up that of­fice. Their pre­de­ces­sors left quite a mess.

The last elected trea­surer, Rob McCord, re­signed in 2015 be­fore plead­ing guilty to try­ing to ex­tort cam­paign cash. Another for­mer trea­surer, Bar­bara Hafer, faces fed­eral charges of ly­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors about pay­ments she re­ceived from a now-in­dicted Ch­ester County busi­ness­man.

But at least in those races, the po­lit­i­cal par­ties fielded promis­ing can­di­dates. We’re op­ti­mistic that the win­ners — Josh Shapiro for at­tor­ney gen­eral and Joe Torsella for trea­surer — will fol­low through on re­form.

The real low point in Penn­syl­va­nia’s elec­tion was the con job the Leg­is­la­ture pulled off to trick vot­ers into rais­ing the manda­tory re­tire­ment age for state and lo­cal judges.

The bal­lot ques­tion was about rais­ing the age from 70 to 75, but that’s not what the ques­tion said and vot­ers al­most cer­tainly would have re­jected it if it had. In­stead it asked vot­ers if they fa­vored set­ting a re­tire­ment age of 75 — with no men­tion of the cur­rent limit of 70 — leav­ing many to be­lieve they were vot­ing to cre­ate an age cut­off where none ex­isted.

The mea­sure passed by less than 2 per­cent­age points. It was clear in con­ver­sa­tions and on so­cial me­dia that a good many vot­ers had been bam­boo­zled.

Re­mem­ber that the same is­sue, in the form of a ques­tion that did men­tion the ex­ist­ing re­tire­ment age, was pulled from the pri­mary bal­lot last spring. In other words, leg­is­la­tors just de­layed the vote by one elec­tion so they could rig it in fa­vor of the judges.

That means 19 judges statewide who turn 70 this year, in­clud­ing Erie County Judge John Garhart, can ex­tend their ca­reers. Garhart said he will stay on the job, which pays $176,572 a year.

We have no par­tic­u­lar quar­rel with Garhart. But the re­prieve for him and the others re­sulted from a dis­hon­est po­lit­i­cal trick, Penn­syl­va­nia style.

The bal­lot ques­tion was about rais­ing the age from 70 to 75, but that’s not what the ques­tion said and vot­ers al­most cer­tainly would have re­jected it if it had. In­stead it asked vot­ers if they fa­vored set­ting a re­tire­ment age of 75 — with no men­tion of the cur­rent limit of 70 — leav­ing many to be­lieve they were vot­ing to cre­ate an age cut­off where none ex­isted.

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