A Pa. ballot question’s perplexing election rehearsal

    Pennsylvania Chief Justice Thomas Saylor will turn 70

    Pennsylvania Chief Justice Thomas Saylor will turn 70

    The results of a “dry run” for a referendum to hike the judicial age limit in Pennsylvania have some people scratching their heads.

    Due to court battles, the question remained on many primary ballots even though it has been officially postponed until the November election.

    Forty-nine percent of the votes cast supported the change, and 51 percent were opposed. The referendum seeks a constitutional amendment shifting the mandated judicial retirement age from 70 to 75 years old.

    Drew Crompton, counsel for state Senate Republicans, was part of the legal tussle that ultimately delayed the ballot question. He said he’s not sure how useful Tuesday’s results are.

    “This question, to the degree that the sample set is large and somewhat reliable, is interesting in that people are split on the question,” said Crompton, adding that he’s not sure how even the split is.

    “I’m not sure I read into an absolute 50-50 because I don’t know what was happening across the state,” Crompton said. It’s not clear what share of voters knew the referendum had been postponed.

    Bob Heim, chairman of the reform advocacy group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, said the dry run “tells you almost nothing” about the referendum’s chances this fall, when results will be counted. Turnout is expected to be higher in November, and Heim believes the further recent judicial scandals fade into the background as time passes, the more people will support letting judges serve longer on the bench.

    The referendum was delayed due to a disagreement over its phrasing. Senate Republicans and state elections officials have agreed on a simplified version which will appear on the ballot in November.

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