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
michaelawinberg-2020-2
billypenn-voterguide-sm

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


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)

For:

Against:

  • Billy Penn couldn’t identify any Pennsylvania opponents.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2021 stories.

Mornings in the know

Sign up for Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter for a daily roundup of Philadelphia’s most pressing news, top interesting stories, fun tidbits, and relevant events.

Thanks for reading another Billy Penn article!

We don’t have a paywall, and never will. Instead, we depend on readers like you to keep our newsroom jamming on stories about Philadelphia. If you like what you see, will you support our work?

Thanks for reading a Billy Penn story

We don’t have a paywall, and our daily newsletter is free. Instead, YOU are key to keeping our nonprofit newsroom running strong. If you like what you see, will you join as a member today?

This story was powered by readers

Readers like you make articles like this possible, so thanks for your support. Want to make sure we stick around? Become a sustainer with a recurring contribution!

Tell a friend about Billy Penn

Thanks for reading another article — and we’re grateful for your support! Want to help a friend start their day with Billy Penn? Send them to our newsletter signup page.