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PENNSYLVANIA 2 state issues on ballot



Published: Sun, May 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Voters should look for the questions at the top of their election ballots.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

MERCER, Pa. -- Should judges stay on the bench past age 70 and, if legislative redistricting creates a district that doesn't include the incumbent senator's home municipality, when should there be a new election to fill that post?

Voters across Pennsylvania will be asked to address both questions during Tuesday's primary election.

Each requires only a yes or no answer.

State law now says that state judges, Supreme Court justices and justices of the peace must retire on their 70th birthday, but there is a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would allow them to serve to the end of the calendar year in which they turn 70.

Mercer judge: The change, if approved by voters, could affect Francis J. Fornelli, president judge of Mercer County Common Pleas Court, who is seeking retention for another 10-year term in the November general election this year.

He will reach 70 on Aug. 1 in the final year of that new term and would be able to complete that full year.

Making judges retire on their 70th birthday sometimes leaves court benches empty for the rest of that year. The governor can appoint judges to fill unexpired terms but sometimes a post remains vacant until a new judge is elected the following year.

The redistricting question, which applies only to the state Senate, is a little more complex.

It is a constitutional amendment regarding legislative reapportionment, the periodic shifting of legislative districts to reflect shifts in population every 10 years.

Redistricting: The referendum asks if, when a district is redrawn so that it no longer contains the home residence of the incumbent senator in that district, an election for the new district should be held at the next general election, regardless of when the next election is scheduled for that four-year post.

This means voters would get a chance to pick a senator at the next general election, even though there may be time left in the incumbent's term and the next scheduled election for that post is two or three years away.

Another round of redistricting is to begin later this year, based on the 2000 census.




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