74% of PA voters voted in favor of Marsy’s Law, though election results cannot be certified pending a court ruling

A majority of Pennsylvania voters voted in favor of a measure to add specific rights of crime victims, together known as a Marsy’s Law, to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The vote was 74% to 26%.
 
On October 30, 2019, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court enjoined Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar from counting or certifying election results. The preliminary injunction resulted from a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters that argues the measure violates the state’s separate vote requirement by combining multiple changes to the constitution into one measure. Wanda Murren, communications director of the state department, said the court’s order “does not prohibit the counties from following any of their normal election procedures,” which means results were available on election night.
 
A similar situation happened with a Marsy’s Law in Kentucky last year. Courts ruled that the ballot language for the Kentucky amendment did not sufficiently inform voters and that the amendment was invalid. The preliminary ruling happened too late to take the measure off the ballot, so voters saw it on the ballot, and 63% approved it. The measure was in limbo until seven months later when the Kentucky Supreme Court give the final ruling, officially invalidating the measure.
 
Montana’s 2016 Marsy’s Law amendment was also struck down by a post-election ruling. In that case, the ruling was based on the state’s separate vote requirement
 
As of 2019, voters in 12 states had approved a ballot measure for Marsy’s Law. The first was in California in 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, voters had approved Marsy’s Law in Illinois (2014), Montana (2016), North Dakota (2016), South Dakota (2016), Ohio (2017), Florida (2018), Georgia (2018), Kentucky (2018), Nevada (2018), North Carolina (2018), and Oklahoma (2018). Wisconsin is scheduled to vote on Marsy’s Law on April 7, 2020. Ballotpedia identified $102.26 million in total contributions to the support campaigns for the 12 Marsy’s Law ballot measures that were on ballots between 2008 and 2018. Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., and the organization Marsy’s Law for All provided 97 percent—about 99.3 million—of the total contributions. Marsy’s Law is named after Henry Nicholas’ sister, who was murdered in 1983.
 



About the author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jackie.mitchell@ballotpedia.org

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