BROOKVILLE — Voters were asked to weigh in on a proposed constitutional amendment for crime victim rights.
The question they were asked to vote either yes or no to read:
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to grant certain rights to crime victims, including to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity; considering their safety in bail proceedings, reasonable protection from the accused; right to refuse discovery requests made by the accused; restitution and return of property; proceedings free from delay; and to be informed of these rights, so they can enforce them?
In Jefferson County voters cast 4,544 votes in favor of the amendment and 3,047 votes against the amendment.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of State website, once these specific rights are added to the Pennsylvania Constitution, they cannot be eliminated, “except by a judicial decision finding all or part of the amendment unconstitutional or the approval of a subsequent constitutional amendment. If approved, the General Assembly may pass a law to implement these new, constitutional rights, but it may not pass a law eliminating them. If approved, State and local governments will need to create new procedures to ensure that victims receive the rights provided for by the amendment.”
There has been a court ruling that the ballot question results cannot be “immediately certified.” A preliminary injunction was approved on October 30 by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania that postpones tabulation and certification of the vote tally while there is a court challenge.
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit alleging that the ballot question violates the state Constitution, doesn’t include the text of the amendment and doesn’t inform voters on the impact of the amendment.
The state Constitution requires that two or more amendments must be submitted for separate ballot votes. The current constitutional question affects several constitutional rights and doesn’t let voters decide on each right separately. Some of the familiar rights affected are: the right to a speedy trial, to confront witnesses and against double jeopardy.
On Oct. 31, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar filed an appeal of the injunction in the state Supreme Court.
BROOKVILLE — Jefferson County saw 8,441 registered voters casting ballots or slightly more than a 25 percent voter turn out for the November 5 General Election.
The county has 29,825 registered voters – 8,767 Democrats, 17,570 Republicans, 105 listed as OTH (other parties) and 3,383 listed as other. On Tuesday those casting votes did so under the new voting system that reintroduced paper ballots to the voting population.
A couple thousand voters decided to vote straight party at the polls. There were 325 ballots cast straaight party Democrat and 1,882 straight party Republican for a total of 2,207 ballots.
Jefferson County Chief Clerk and Director of Elections Karen Lupone said the new system went fairly smoothly with just minor glitches. They discovered early on that Sharpie pens will not work with the ballots as was first thought. Instead voters used black ink pens to fill in the ovals on the paper ballots.
Voters were given two ballots – the official election day ballot and the official judicial retention ballot. A total of 16,820 ballots were cast. That total is not double the number of voters casting ballots because at least one polling location had a slight mix-up early in the day when voters were only given the official election ballot and not the judicial retention ballot.
On the retention ballot voters were asked to decide whether to retain four current state judges – Anne E. Lazarus and July Olson on the state Superior Court and Kevin Brobson and Patricia A. McCullough on the state Commonwealth Court. Voters in Jefferson County decided to retain all four judges.
On the official election day ballot, voters also decided on filling vacancies on the state Superior Court. They were asked to vote for any two of the following four candidates: Amanda Green-Hawkins and Daniel D. McCaffery, both Democrats, and Megan McCarthy King and Christylee Peck, both Republicans. Jefferson County voters overwhelmingly chose the two King and Beck. King received 5,814 votes and Beck, 5,677. McCaffery received the next highest number of votes with 1,692. Green-Hawkins received 1,541 votes.
Jefferson County offices
At the county level, voters chose a sheriff, county commissioners and a Register and Recorder of Deeds and Clerk of the Ophans Court.
In the Sheriff’s race, incumbent Sheriff Carl J. Gotwald Sr. (Republican) won in a landslide with 7,087 votes. Democratic challenger Paul J. Pape (Democrat) received 1,030 votes. There were 27 unresolved write-in votes.
Gotwald watched the votes come in Tuesday night in the large conference room at Jefferson Place. He was thankful to county residents for voting for him once more and looks forward to serving the residents of the county for the next four years. He noted that this will likely be his last election as by the end this term he will have 29 years in the Sheriff’s Department.
Four candidates, two Republicans and two Democrats, were in the running for the three county commissioner seats. Voters were to choice two from the four – incumbents John Jack Matson, Jeffrey Pisarcik and Herbert L. Bullers Jr. and newcomer Kelly R. Harriger. Jefferson County voters decided to keep the county’s governmental decisions in the hands of the three incumbents for the next four years. Matson received 5,432 votes, Bullers, 5,196 votes, Pisarcik, 2,589 votes and Harriger received 1,761 votes. There were also 33 unresolved write-in votes.
Brianna Bullers was the lone candidate for the office of Register & Recorder. She won the Republican primary election and was the write-in winner on the Democratic ticket, leaving her unopposed in Tuesday’s election. She received 7,609 votes. There were also 143 unresolved write-in votes.
Three people were up for the two county auditor vacancies – Democrat B. Jean Shaw and Republicans Douglas E. Kougher and Edward J. McGinnis Jr. Voters chose McGinnis and Kougher with 5,533 and 4,966 votes, respectively. Shaw received 2,311 votes. There were 35 unresolved write-in votes.
Few local races
There are few actual races for school districts and municipalities in Jefferson County. Those include Brookville Area School District, Big Run Borough Council, Punxsutawney Borough Council and Reynoldsville Borough Council. All other local races had either just enough names to fill the open seats or had no one listed on the ballot.
Brookville Area School District
Voters residing in the school district were asked to vote for one person to fill a two-year term on the school board and for five individuals to fill five four-year term vacancies. Running for the four-year terms were: Kerith Strano Taylor, Fred Park, Herbert W. McConnell Jr., Richard Ortz, Luc Doolittle and Don Gill. Strano Taylor, Park, McConnell and Ortz all crossfiled Republican/Democrat. Doolittle ran as a Democrat and Gill as a Republican, both also ran for the two-year term vacancy. Elected to four-year terms were: Gill (1,863), Park (1,801), McConnell (1,553), Ortz (1,344) and Strano Taylor (1,188). While Doolittle (1,016) did not win a four-year term on the school board he did garner the most votes for the two-year term seat. Gill received 773 votes in that race.
Big Run Borough Council
This race is still undecided. Democratic candidates John L. Smeal and Carole E. Bergman and Republican candidates Kathleen A. Macaulay and Bonnie Haugh were vying for three open seats on council. Macaulay received 85 votes but there was a three-way tie between Smeal, Berman and Haugh with each receiving 31 votes. There are also 214 unresolved write-in votes listed.
Punxsutawney Borough Council
Vying for three openings on borough council were William “Bill” Williams (Democrat/Republican), Michele P. Lorenzo (Democrat), Jim Bianco (Republican) and Robert Toby Santik (Republican). The unofficial count gives the race to Bianco, Williams and Santik. Bianco received the most votes at 608. Williams received 557 and Santik received 456. Lorenzo had 390 votes. There are 110 unresolved write-in votes listed as well for the four-year term seats.
Reynoldsville Borough Council
Cross-filed Democratic/Republican candidates John D. Burkett and Michael D. Popson, Democratic candidates Sue Ellen Wells and William Cebulskie and Republican candidates Ralph Tucker August and Nichole Walk were vying for four four-year term seats on council. Burkett was the top vote getter Tuesday with 313 votes. Popson and August tied with 211 votes each. The next highest vote count went to Cebulskie at 183. Walk received 171 votes and Wells, 148. There were 60 unresolved write-in votes.