This November 7 is what is often termed an “off-year” general election. But even though we aren’t voting for the U.S. President in 2023, this election is crucial to our democracy.
PA voters are deciding on the next state Supreme Court Justice, as well as on appellate judges to sit on Commonwealth and Superior Courts. All Pennsylvania voters can select judges in the statewide judicial races, but certain parts of the state also vote for municipal offices (such as mayor, city council, municipal judges) and local school boards.
State Judges Matter
The Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth Courts hold a tremendous amount of power and make decisions that have a direct impact on our everyday lives. Here are a few examples:
- In 2020, courts in the swing-vote states (including Pennsylvania) upheld the legitimacy of the Presidential election after months of baseless cases were filed by Republican Trump supporters. There’s no doubt that we’ll see a repeat of this if the Republican candidate (most likely Trump) fails to win in 2024.
- Abortion became a state issue when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade unconstitutional. So far, Pennsylvania has been able to retain most reproductive rights for its residents, but this could easily change if a pro-life Supreme Court candidate like Republican Carolyn Carluccio – prevails this November.
- For decades, cities across the Commonwealth have been unable to respond to increasing gun violence due to the statewide 1995 Uniform Firearms Act banning municipalities from enacting stricter gun regulations. In 2022, the Commonwealth Court rejected the arguments made by Philadelphia and others that the 1995 law is unconstitutional. As of September 2023, the state’s Supreme Court has been considering an appeal.
These are a few of the issues decided by state judges. For a more comprehensive look at how Pennsylvania’s appellate courts impact our lives, check out this interactive tool put together by Spotlight PA, which highlights an array of important statewide cases.
Remember, this is a general election, not a primary. This means that any registered voter (Democrat, Republican or Independent) can vote for any of the statewide candidates.
Don’t Forget Your Local School Board
It’s more important than ever to pay attention to local school board elections. Extremist groups, such as Moms for Liberty, have infiltrated a number of school boards throughout the state, which has led to a rise in book bannings, anti-LGBTQ+ policies and programs downplaying the country’s history of racism. These school board extremists portray themselves as “apolitical Moms.” In fact, they are funded by right-wing Republican organizations whose ultimate goal is to dismantle public education and weaken the voting strength of teacher unions.
So don’t forget to vote!
– Karen Gelman