On Tuesday, May 18 Pennsylvania expects the same low turnout that we see at most primary elections. This would be unfortunate, since this primary affects every voter in the state, no matter their political party, or if they are registered as an independent. Yet the sad truth is thousands of voters are probably unaware that they are even allowed to cast a vote.
Everyone pays for a primary to be held, although Libertarians like myself, as well as Green or other party members, cannot participate in most primaries. An exception is when referendums are on the ballot. Independents are also excluded from voting in primaries in our state. But next month everyone is allowed to vote on some key referendums that will affect our state constitution.
Even Democrats and Republicans often skip the primary. They may assume their party machine has predetermined the winner, so they may as well wait until the general election in the fall. This means important changes to the Pennsylvania constitution will be determined by far fewer voters than if these proposals were on a November ballot.
As usual, the referendums 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. This is our chance, as voters, to place important decision powers back into the hands of the constituents, and to ensure that all Pennsylvanians are treated fairly no matter what their background may be.
The Libertarian Party of Chester County supports all three referendums. As Libertarians, we promote individual freedom and reject the notion that a single executive can suspend the state constitution without answering to the voters or their elected representatives. Two of these referendums are focused on this.
For the past year business and schools throughout the Delaware Valley as well as the rest of the state have suffered from constantly changing, often arbitrary rules that have violated the state constitution, and the rights of citizens. Pennsylvania’s constitution allows for the temporary suspension of some laws in the case of a serious emergency. The keyword here is ‘temporary,’ defined as 21 days.
When an executive violates the spirit of this law by arbitrarily extending an emergency order as often as he likes, we no longer are faced with an emergency, we instead have a version of martial law that can last as long as only one person decides. The May ballot proposes that while a chief executive may declare an emergency (which makes sense) the executive may not endlessly prolong it without permission from the legislature (which follows the spirit of our constitution).
Another amendment makes this clear; an emergency is a temporary situation that may last for up to 21 days. It does not allow you to close businesses, shut schools, and prevent assembly for undefined periods of time. Again, this power belongs to the voters and to their representatives, not to a single politician.
The last 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 appeared that not every major party supported this at first, the resolution now seems to have the backing of every party, as it should.
The LPCC urges every voter to go to the polls this May 18 and vote yes on all three proposals. Reject discrimination and reject placing powers in the hands of one executive, no matter what party they support.
The pandemic is thankfully reaching its final stages, thanks to brilliant technology and the hard work of so many in the medical profession. But the damage caused to business, students, workers and families will unfortunately be with us for a long time, largely due to the poor decisions made by a single chief executive 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 ballot initiatives on May 18.
Stephen Wahrhaftig is the chair of the Libertarian Party of Chester County.