Retired teacher has a simple solution to Pa’s ‘convoluted’ ballot problem

This Week in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Tuesday, voters will decide on four ballot questions, two of which have become deeply political.

They address a governor’s power to continue emergency declarations. Unless you’re a practicing attorney, they’re hard to understand. 

The Wolf Administration hates that this question will appear on the ballot and Republican lawmakers hate the way this question will appear on the ballot.

“I think it’s very convoluted and confusing,” said Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, Republican House Majority Leader.

Democratic Rep. Jared Soloman is a lawyer with an admission. “Lawyers are not necessarily paid to make things clear, concise and crisp.”

Solomon would like a new rule for ballot questions “that this constitutional amendment needs to be written in plain english.”

He has bipartisan support.

”I am of the same mindset everything you said there making things clear with attorneys sometimes complicating the issue,” said Representative Jason Ortitay, Republican, Allegheny/Washington Counties.

Allow us to uncomplicate:

“Shall the Pennsylvania constitution be amended,” said retired english teacher Cindy Hogentogler.

For 30 years, Cindy taught English and journalism.

“Pursuant to that declaration through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority.”

She read the version voters will grapple with.

“Presenting a resolution to the governor for approval or disapproval,” she added — mostly disapproval from the teacher.

“I would probably put brackets in the margins and right ‘wordy.’ Tighten your writing.”

It’s 71 words, punctuated by just two dashes, one comma and one question mark,” Cindy said. “I don’t know that there’s anything grammatically incorrect about it. It’s an interrogative sentence which you remember is a question.”

Uh. I didn’t remember that, but I do have a question. Can she make it better?

“I think a simple version is what we owe our voters.”

Mrs. Hogentogler is retired but just happens to have a lined blackboard, chalk and an idea. In no time she came up with this:

Shall the Pennsylvania constitution be amended to allow the legislature to stop or continue a disaster emergency declaration after 21 days.

Just 21 words.

”I think it’s much easier to understand and I think we have to think about the voters too. Our audience,” she said

The lawyers on both sides will no doubt criticize it. Everybody else, no doubt, will appreciate it.

A reminder that everyone, Republicans and Democrats, can and should vote on ballot questions. Standard.

Tune in to abc27 Thursday as Dennis Owens breaks down all four ballot questions.

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