Pennsylvania Looks to Change Judicial Elections

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Pennsylvania Looks to Change Judicial Elections

 

Voters elect legislators by districts, so should they elect appellate judges by district, too? That is the question that Pennsylvania legislators are currently considering.

 

As part of a larger anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendment, state senators in mid-June inserted a provision that would require appellate judges (including state Supreme Court justices) to run by district. Currently, these judges are elected statewide.

 

The senators who support this concept point out that most of the state appellate judges come from a few areas of the state (generally around Pittsburgh or Philadelphia). Electing them by districts, according to these legislators, would provide much-needed geographic diversity for the judicial branch.

 

Opponents say this is a Republican attempt to attack the Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court. They contend that there is no good reason to divide up judicial seats by geographic area, since these judges decide on statewide issues.

 

This proposed change to judicial elections came during consideration of a constitutional amendment that would establish a nonpartisan commission to draw election districts. The state Supreme Court recently invalidated the districts drawn by Republican legislators.

 

The state House of Representatives must now consider this proposed amendment. To go before voters, both houses of the General Assembly must pass an identical version of the amendment during two consecutive legislative sessions. If the House rejects the Senate’s idea, it would doom the overall nonpartisan redistricting effort.

 

Do you think that state Supreme Court justices should be elected statewide, or should they be elected by districts that would give more geographic diversity?

 

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