Philadelphia voters will weigh in on four ballot questions in November, on issues related to police reform, a potential new victims' advocate office, and borrowing money.

In addition to candidates on the Pennsylvania general election ballot, Philadelphia ballots will ask city voters to select Yes or No on the ballot initiatives.

Here’s an explanation of each.

Question 1: Stop and Frisk

Voters are being asked whether they want to change Philadelphia law to ban “unconstitutional” stop-and-frisk policing.

If the ballot question passes, it wouldn’t entirely eliminate stop-and-frisk, which studies have shown is used disproportionately to stop people of color. Rather, the question specifies that officers must have a reasonable suspicion that individuals they stop are involved in criminal activity, and cannot stop someone based on “race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or expression, or other protected characteristic.”

Here’s the full text as it will appear on your ballot:

We, the citizens of Philadelphia, call upon the Police Department to eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent, meaning an officer must have reasonable suspicion that a person is engaged in criminal activity in order to stop that person, and, therefore, an officer cannot stop someone unlawfully because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or expression, or other protected characteristic.

PLAIN ENGLISH STATEMENT (REQUIRED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION CODE)

The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government.

If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the City’s Charter so that it sets forth a statement that calls upon the Police Department to end the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk.

The statement would elaborate on the constitutional limitations on police stops. It would state that for a stop and frisk to be constitutional, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is engaged in criminal activity. It would also state that an officer cannot, under the law, stop someone because of that person’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation or expression, or other protected characteristic.

Question 2: Office of victim advocate

Voters are being asked whether Philadelphia should establish a victim advocate’s office, which would work with victims of crimes to ensure they know their rights and work with agencies like prosecutors and the police. A head victim advocate would be appointed by the mayor with approval from City Council. The state of Pennsylvania has its own Office of the Victim Advocate. This ballot question would create the city’s own version.

Here’s the full text as it will appear on your ballot:

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create the Office of the Victim Advocate to advocate for crime victims and to work with victim-services providers to coordinate, plan, train, educate, and investigate issues relating to crime victims?

PLAIN ENGLISH STATEMENT (REQUIRED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION CODE)

The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government.

If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the City’s Charter so that it establishes an Office of the Victim Advocate.

If the Office is created, it would be headed by the Victim Advocate, who would be appointed by the Mayor with the advice and consent of City Council. The responsibilities of the Office would include the following:

  • Advocating for victims of crimes, as individuals and as a group;
  • Ensuring that crime victims know their rights;
  • Promoting cooperation among agencies that serve crime victims; and
  • Providing training and support to agencies that interact with crime victims.

Question 3: Police oversight

Voters are being asked whether the city should create a new Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Such a body would replace the existing Police Advisory Commission, which has been criticized for lacking enough power to provide effective oversight. If the ballot question passes, City Council would establish the commission and determine its structures, budget, and power.

Here’s the full text as it will appear on your ballot:

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for the creation of a Citizens Police Oversight Commission, and to authorize City Council to determine the composition, powers and duties of the Commission?

PLAIN ENGLISH STATEMENT (REQUIRED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION CODE)

The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government. If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the Charter so that it creates a Citizens Police Oversight Commission.

The City currently has an oversight body called the Police Advisory Commission, created by the Mayor, which the Mayor could eliminate. With this Charter change, the Citizens Police Oversight Commission would be a permanent part of City government. City Council would determine how members are selected for the Oversight Commission and would establish the Commission’s specific powers, consistent with its mission, which could be substantially broader than the advisory role of the Police Advisory Commission.

The Commission’s mission would be to:

  • Evaluate and work to improve police officer conduct, including by improving investigations of alleged misconduct;
  • Make clearer the officer disciplinary process and the process for submitting and considering citizen complaints of police misconduct;
  • Help hold the Police Department accountable for officers' actions; and
  • Improve communication between the Police Department and the community.

Question 4: Borrowing money

Voters are being asked to vote for or against the city’s borrowing of $134 million. The funds would be spent on capital projects for transit, streets and sanitation, municipal buildings, parks, recreation and museums, and community development.

Here’s the full text as it will appear on your ballot:

Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED THIRTYFOUR MILLION DOLLARS ($134,000,000.00) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?

PLAIN ENGLISH STATEMENT (REQUIRED BY THE PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION CODE)

This ballot question, if approved by the voters, would authorize the City to borrow $134,000,000 for capital purposes, thereby increasing the City’s indebtedness by $134,000,000. Capital purposes means, generally, to make expenditures that will result in something of value with a useful life to the City of more than five years, for example, acquisitions of real estate, or construction of or improvements to buildings, property or streets.

The money to be borrowed would be used by the City for five identified purposes, namely, Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development, all in specific amounts identified in Bill No. 200298 (approved June 26, 2020). City Council would have authority, by ordinance, to change the intended allocation by moving proceeds from one category to any of the other categories listed.