More than two million Pennsylvania voters responded to a clear question put to them on April 26 - whether the state's mandatory retirement age for judges should be raised from 70 to 75 - with a clear answer: No.
Rather than accept this result, those rooting for the opposite outcome have decided the question was a little too clear. With the tenure of the state Supreme Court's chief justice and lone Republican, 69-year-old Thomas Saylor, at stake, the legislature's ruling Republicans passed a resolution and won a court ruling rendering the election results moot less than a week beforehand. Now they're contriving to ask the question another way in hopes of getting the answer they want in November.
The April ballot asked voters whether the state constitution should be amended to require that judges retire at the end of the "year in which they attain the age of 75 years, instead of the current requirement that they be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 70." The rewording passed by the legislature for the November ballot would ask only whether judges should be required to retire at 75 - without mentioning that they are already required to retire at 70.
This could be politely described as chicanery, the obvious intent of which is to obscure the practical meaning of the question. In the absence of any mention of the current mandate, voters who do not breathlessly follow the ins and outs of judicial retirement rules - that is, virtually all of them - could be forgiven for thinking they're being asked to institute the state's first compulsory judicial retirement age. That would be an entirely different question from raising an existing retirement age, which is what voters are actually being asked to do.
While Pennsylvania judges are already allowed to continue serving in a senior capacity beyond retirement, reasonable people can disagree about whether 75 is a more appropriate mandatory retirement age than 70. However, based on a steady stream of judicial scandal in recent years - from the euthanized Philadelphia Traffic Court to the three Supreme Court justices who resigned in disgrace in as many years - and in light of the legislature's failure to reform judicial elections, the Editorial Board concluded that this is not the time to give all the state's judges another five years on the bench. The voters apparently agreed.