PA voters to decide whether to add protection against racial discrimination to state constitution


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania voters will decide on May 18 whether to add protections against racial discrimination to the state constitution.

They’ll be asked the question, “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?”

Senator Vincent Hughes proposed the constitutional amendment.

“Provides protection in the Constitution against discrimination based on race and ethnicity,” Hughes said.

If that sounds familiar it’s because the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protections for all races.

Local attorney Lawrence Otter says this would add a layer on the state level.

“It would give residents of Pennsylvania a separate state right that’s similar to what’s in the federal Consitution,” Otter said.

Senator Hughes says for people of color that extra layer of protection matters.

“We are denied access to banking, healthcare, education, work opportunities, things of that nature. We need additional protections,” Hughes said. “We can’t just depend upon what’s currently in existence.”

The amendment has bipartisan support, unlike the other two more political amendments on the ballot.

“The first two amendments are a little more controversial. This one I think that any American, any Pennsylvanian should vote yes,” Otter said.

Every registered voter gets to vote on this issue, regardless of party.

“People who are registered as independents or third parties can vote in the primary, but their ballot will be limited to these Constitutional questions and the referendum question,” Otter said.

For the sake of the Commonwealth, Senator Hughes is hoping people vote yes.

“We have to strengthen that protection so that we can finally, finally get down the path of stamping out discrimination and make sure that everybody is seen equally,” Hughes said.

You can find out about the other questions voters will get to decide on here.

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