HARRISBURG - With barely two weeks until the primary election, and with some ballots already printed, the Wolf administration has agreed to delay a planned ballot question asking voters if the state should raise the mandatory retirement age for judges.
The question on whether to allow judges to retire at 75 rather than the current 70 will be moved to the Nov. 8 ballot, said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Wolf.
The eleventh-hour switch was pushed by Republicans who control the legislature and who were unhappy about the wording of the question. They argued that it was too long and used confusing legal language. They also said more people are likely to vote on the question in November, given the higher turnout expected for the presidential general election. Voters unaffiliated with a political party may not have known they could vote on a ballot question during a primary election.
Opponents of the delay say it will be more confusing to voters to postpone the question - in part because some may still see it on the ballot this month. A number of county election offices already have printed and distributed absentee ballots and programmed voting machines to include the question.
"Folks may have already voted on this measure," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny), referring to those voting with absentee ballots. "What you run the risk of is disenfranchising voters across the commonwealth."
It was not immediately known how the state will advise county election offices deal with informing primary voters of the switch.
If approved by voters, the new retirement age would apply to all of the state's approximately 1,000 judges. For the Supreme Court, its impact would be immediate: Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Max Baer both turn 70 in the next two years.