Credit: PA Supreme Court, Wikimedia Commons, Courtesy Photo

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Pennsylvania judges will now not have to retire until age 75, after voters narrowly said yes to a ballot question extending mandatory retirement past the current age 70.

The result was called around 3 this morning, with 50.9 percent of voters saying yes and 49.1 saying no.

The question had been the center of a controversy because of wording many politicians and watchdog groups argued was vague. It appeared on the ballot without any reference to the current retirement age of 70 and asked voters, “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and magisterial district judges be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years?     

That wasn’t the original wording. The question was supposed to appear on the primary ballot in the spring and contained the information of the current retirement age of 70. But Republicans in the General Assembly protested and a resolution was passed moving the question to November and changing the wording to what you saw on the ballot today. The resolution happened after absentee ballots had been received and the question was printed on some ballots. Early indications were that the question would not pass and the retirement age would not be extended.  

Democratic State Sen. Daylin Leach compared the way the ballot question was pulled akin to lifting a measure on Election Day if votes weren’t going the way leadership wanted.

“That looks like something out of North Korea,” he said.   

The effects of voters’ decision to extend the voting age will be immediate. Republican Chief Supreme Court Justice Tom Saylor turns 70 this year and would have been forced to retire. Because of the measure he as well as 18 other judges of varying levels throughout Pennsylvania will now have the option of staying around for longer.

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...