On Tuesday, May 18, political experts in Pennsylvania expect the same low turnout we usually see in primary elections. If that happens, it would be unfortunate, since this primary will affect every voter in the state, regardless of their party affiliation.
Part of the problem is that thousands of voters are unaware that they are even allowed to cast a vote. Although every taxpayer helps pay for the cost of a primary, Libertarian Party members (like me), as well as Green Party and other third-party members and independents, often cannot participate in primaries because they are designed to allow the two major parties to choose their candidates. So, many third-party voters simply ignore primaries all together. But they shouldn’t this time.
One big exception to the third-party rule is when referendums are on the ballot, and in next month’s election, everyone is allowed to vote on four key referendums that will affect our state constitution.
As usual, they are worded awkwardly, but they contain important proposals that would affect the use of government powers as well as the ability to discriminate against individuals based on their race, color, creed, and other characteristics. This is our chance, as voters, to place important decision-making powers back into the hands of citizens and ensure that all Pennsylvanians are treated fairly no matter what their backgrounds may be.
This is our chance, as voters, to place important decision-making powers back into the hands of citizens and ensure that all Pennsylvanians are treated fairly no matter what their backgrounds may be.
The Libertarian Party of Chester County (LPCC) supports all of the referendums except the one extending Volunteer Firefighter loans to municipalities. As Libertarians, we promote individual freedom and reject the notion that a single executive like the governor can suspend the state constitution without answering to the voters or their elected representatives. Two of these referendums are focused on that belief.
For the past year, business and schools throughout the state have suffered from constantly changing, often arbitrary rules that have violated the state constitution and the rights of citizens. The Pennsylvania constitution allows for the temporary suspension of some laws in the case of a serious emergency, and “temporary” is currently defined as 90 days.
When an executive violates the spirit of this law by arbitrarily extending an emergency order as often as he likes, however, we no longer are faced with an emergency. Instead, we have a version of martial law that can last as long as that single person decides. One of the May ballot referendums, therefore, proposes that while a chief executive may declare an emergency (which makes sense), he or she may not endlessly prolong it without permission from the legislature (which follows the spirit of our constitution).
When an executive violates the spirit of this law by arbitrarily extending an emergency order as often as he likes, however, we no longer are faced with an emergency. Instead, we have a version of martial law that can last as long as that single person decides.
A second proposed amendment would also make this clear: Even under a temporary emergency declaration, a governor would not be allowed to close business, shut schools, and prevent assembly for indefinite periods of time. Again, this power belongs to the voters and to their elected representatives, not to a single politician.
The third initiative is a joint resolution to prohibit discrimination due to race or ethnicity. This resolution is designed to ensure that our rights are not denied or abridged because of who we are. While it first appeared that not every political party supported this, the resolution now appears to have the backing of every party, as it should.
The fourth referendum proposes to open the volunteer fire department loan system to municipalities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. This simply takes funds away from volunteer departments and sifts it to large Pennsylvania cities, without enlarging the available funding.
The LPCC urges every voter, no matter what party they support, to go to the polls on May 18 and vote yes on the three most important proposals. Reject discrimination and reject placing extraordinary powers in the hands on any one person.
Fortunately, the pandemic is reaching its final stages thanks to brilliant technology and the hard work of so many in the medical profession. The damage caused to business, students, workers, and families, however, will unfortunately be with us for a long time, largely due to the poor decisions made by a governor who felt he could ignore the will of his constituents and their elected representatives.
It is time to end the dictatorship. Support equal rights. Support our state constitution. Vote yes on the three key ballot initiatives on May 18.
Stephen Wahrhaftig, Chair, Libertarian Party of Chester County, Pennsylvania.