We don’t just mean that you have a civic obligation to go to the voting booth today, although of course you do. You need to vote for an even bigger reason than the usual big reasons: the judicial election will change the course of state history, and affect the lives of Pennsylvanians for years to come.
There are currently three vacancies on Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Chief Justice Ronald Castille retired. Joan Orie Melvin resigned after being convicted of corruption. And former Justice Seamus McCaffery recently retired amid a still-unraveling scandal, wherein it has been revealed that a seemingly ever-expanding network of Pennsylvania judges and lawyers routinely exchanged misogynist and racist messages.
Seven candidates are running for the three open seats. To give you a sense of how historic this situation is, the last time there were three vacancies on Pennsylvania Supreme Court was 311 years ago.
The judicial election will have big ramifications on redistricting scheduled for 2020, as well as paid sick days, gun regulation, school funding, fracking, and other issues—including reproductive rights and other women’s health and economic issues.
By way of example, we’re thinking back to 1985, when the PA Supreme Court issued an opinion in Fischer v. DPW that upheld the cutoff of state Medicaid funds for abortion, and stated that denying poor women abortion access does not offend the promise of gender equality under the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment.
In 1976, the state Supreme Court rejected claims made by two women that they were suffering pay discrimination in their jobs as “meter maids.” The positions were advertised as “for women only” and used as a way to free male officers from ticketing patrols. Male officers who had been doing the work had been paid much more than the women who took over the job. In this case, the Supreme Court decided that men were being discriminated against, due to the fact that the job was advertised as seeking only women. Four decades later, Pennsylvania women are still paid 76 cents for each $1 paid to a man doing the same job, a rate even worse than the national average.
In short, the justices elected tomorrow will have final say over many state disputes, and that’s a fact worth keeping in mind if you are still debating if it is worth voting tomorrow—especially since we’re in the middle of a record-high number of proposed laws restricting women’s access to reproductive healthcare and abortion.
If you need more information about voting, you can start by entering your address here.