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Pennsylvania voters approve Marsy’s Law victims’ rights amendment with constitutionality question pending
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Pennsylvania voters approve Marsy’s Law victims’ rights amendment with constitutionality question pending

Pennsylvania voters on Tuesday widely approved a crime victims’ rights constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law, with an unofficial vote count of 73.87 percent to 26.13 percent (1,660,806 to 587,403 votes).

The count is unofficial, as last week, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge enjoined the tallying of votes on the amendment for due process and defendant rights concerns, and the Supreme Court affirmed that decision Monday.

The Superior court stated that this injunction maintains the status quo and does not take away any of the rights currently afforded to victims. If the amendment is later deemed constitutional, the votes will be counted.

Two Pennsylvania civil rights groups, state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women voters, filed the lawsuit in October challenging the ballot question. The suit claims the measure is unconstitutional because it combines too many changes to the state constitution and that each change must be considered separately. Marsy’s Law would provide 15 new constitutional rights for crime victims. Among the most highlighted additions, a victim would have to be notified at key steps of a criminal case and be allowed to provide input. If a victim or a victim’s family were not notified of significant developments, they could petition courts.

Marsy’s Law is a national campaign that has been approved in at least 11 other states. Similar and identical laws have been challenged in other states, including Kentucky, where it was struck down on procedural grounds in June.

The law includes provisions for the right to be notified about and present at proceedings against the perpetrator, the right to be involved in release and sentencing of the perpetrator, a right to be protected from the accused and a right to receive restitution. The model amendment also defines the term “victim” as including both those directly affected by the crime and any “spouse, parent, grandparent, child, sibling, grandchild, or guardian, and any person with a relationship to the victim that is substantially similar to a listed relationship.”