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Judicial Candidates Face Voters at Sept. 20 Forum

Seats up for grabs on state’s top courts; low turnout expected

By Emily Scott © Public News Service
The Tube City Almanac
September 16, 2021
Posted in: Politics & Elections

Five of seven judges’ seats in the Supreme Court chamber in the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. (Ruhrfisch photo via Wikimedia Commons. Used under CC BY-SA 4.0, Link.)

Emily Scott, Public News Service:

Pennsylvanians will vote this November to elect judges in the state’s three appellate courts, and a virtual candidate forum next week will allow voters to get to know those running for the Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme Court positions who will make influential decisions.

Two seats are up for grabs in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court, and one each in its Superior and Supreme courts. Pennsylvania differs from some states in that it votes for judges in partisan elections, rather than by merit selection.

Debbie Gross, chief executive officer of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, said it limits the information voters can gather from candidates as they are expected to remain impartial in light of issues that could arise on the bench.

“You can’t ask them how they feel on a controversial topic because all these types of cases could potentially reach the court, even a decision over the pandemic and the masks,” Gross explained. “You can’t ask a judge any of these questions when these are real cases that they may be deciding in the near future.”

You can register online to join the candidate forum at 7 p.m. Sep. 20. The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania for the Nov. 2 election is Oct. 18.

Candidates for one seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court include:

P. Kevin Brobson
Maria McLaughlin

Candidates for one seat on Pennsylvania Superior Court include:

Tamika Lane
Megan Sullivan

Candidates for two seats on Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court include:

J. Andrew Crompton
Lori Dumas
David Spurgeon
Stacy Wallace

In off-year elections, Pennsylvania often sees low voter turnout. During the May 2021 primary, participation was sparse, compared with the record-breaking 70 percent of the state’s eligible population who voted during the 2020 presidential election.

Meghan Pierce, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said it’s important for residents to be civically engaged since the elected judges could play a big role in issues such as redistricting in the future.

“I think what a lot of voters don’t realize is, is how much responsibility judges really carry, and how decisions that they make really affect all aspects of their lives,” Pierce pointed out. “Judges are also elected for a really long time. So, it’s really important to do your research on the candidates. Who we elect in November really matters in the long term.”

The forum will be moderated by attorney Maureen McBride, a co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Appellate Advocacy Committee.

To participate in next week’s online forum, register at the League of Women Voters’ website.

Emily Scott is a producer for Public News Service, a listener-supported public benefit corporation based in Boulder, Colo. She may be reached via the Public News Service website.

Originally published September 16, 2021.

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