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Smart Talk: Electing judges by district

A possible Constitutional amendment inches forward

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg is seen on Aug. 19, 2019.

 Ian Sterling / WITF

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg is seen on Aug. 19, 2019.

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Pennsylvania state legislators are considering a move that would change the way appellate judges are elected to the courts.

Currently, judges are elected statewide, the proposed legislation would allow voters to elect them by district. Advocates say the change will give rural Pennsylvanians a greater voice in who is elected to the courts. Opponents believe it makes the system vulnerable to gerrymandering and partisan abuse.

In order to be changed, the legislation must still pass the Senate, then be approved by both chambers  before going to voters as a referendum.

Pennsylvania Republican State Representative Russ Diamond, of Lebanon County, sponsors this legislation and he joins Smart Talk Friday. Debbie Gross, President and CEO of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, will join the conversation to offer another perspective.

The Capitol in Harrisburg faced a political insurrection in 1838

Sentinel reporter and author Joseph Cress says that parallels exist between what happened in Pennsylvania in 1838 and what happened in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election; a dispute over election returns.

The account of what became known as the Buckshot War, is based on a chapter called “Mobocracy” from Cress’s book “Hidden History of Cumberland County.” He appears on Smart Talk to share details of an historic event that still echoes today.

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