When you look at the sample ballots in Centre County, the first thing you’ll see, after straight-party options, are a whole bunch of judge candidates.
There are two people — Democrat Dwayne Woodruff and Republican Sallie Mundy — vying for a seat on the state Supreme Court. There are nine more duking it out for four seats on the state Superior Court. Four others are in the hunt for the two available seats on the Commonwealth Court. Locals Brian Marshall and Ronald McGlaughlin each want the open slot on the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.
But that’s all, right? The next things up are for district attorney and a bunch of municipal and school board seats. We’re done with judges, aren’t we?
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Toward the end of it all, even after the proposed constitutional amendment on homestead property tax assessment, you come to a ballot-within-a-ballot. This is the official retention ballot.
OK, then what?
The retention ballot is how the judges and justices already in place hold onto their seats. Instead of running for office again, which can be challenging for jurists who aren’t supposed to take sides or show partisanship that might color or even appear to impact a future decision, their names are put out for retention.
On Nov. 7, voters will see four names on the Centre County ballots.
Statewide, Thomas Saylor and Debra Todd are asking to be retained as Supreme Court justices. Jacqueline Shogan is running for retention on the Superior Court.
In a retention vote, there are no opponents. The judges essentially are running against themselves with simple “yes” or “no” bubbles asking voters to see if they should keep their jobs, according to the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.
If more people than not say “yes,” they get to stay. If the no votes win, an actual election would then take place.