Election 2021

Should Pennsylvania amend its constitution to prohibit discrimination based on race and ethnicity? (ballot question)

The concepts in this ballot question aren’t debatable, but they’re not yet formally enshrined at a state level.

In 2013, professionals at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia helped restore the Pennsylvania Constitution

In 2013, professionals at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia helped restore the Pennsylvania Constitution

Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts

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Up for voters’ consideration on the May primary ballot is a measure that would protect Pennsylvanians from discrimination on racial or ethnic lines.

Yes, that right is essentially guaranteed by broader laws at the state and federal level already. But the initiative would amend the state constitution to confirm and reinforce the ideas, formally enshrining them in the commonwealth’s governing document.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?

What it means

Philly state Sen. Vincent Hughes proposed this ballot question as protests over racial justice were erupting last summer.

“Discrimination based on race is cooked into the DNA of this nation and we must take action to explicitly prohibit racial and ethnic discrimination in Pennsylvania’s Constitution,” Hughes said at the time.

Read about the other May 18 ballot questions:

🗳️ Visit the Billy Penn procrastinator’s guide to all the candidates

If voters pass the measure, it will add a new section to Article I of the Pa. Constitution, creating a prohibition against denying an individual equal rights because of their race or ethnicity. There are already non-discrimination clauses in the document, plus federal laws like the Equal Protection clause, but this would prohibit racial discrimination explicity at the state level.

Though the initiative has broad support, some have argued in the past that similar measures could open the door to so-called “reverse racism” complaints — i.e. white people claiming they’ve been discriminated against.

Who’s for it (and against it)



  • Billy Penn couldn’t identify any Pennsylvania opponents.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2021 stories.

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