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.