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Elections

How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania’s 2022 election

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One Vote, Two Pennsylvanias logo
One Vote, Two Pennsylvanias logo
Leise Hook / For Spotlight PA

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters.

HARRISBURG — As Pennsylvania gears up for the pivotal 2022 election, Spotlight PA wants to empower voters to make an informed decision this November.

There will be several key races on the ballot, and lots of attention within the state and nationally. Rather than duplicate that coverage, Spotlight PA will instead focus its reporting resources on where candidates stand on the issues, how the voting process works, and how to get involved.

Specifically, this month we are launching a new election series — called “One Vote, Two Pennsylvanias” — to clearly articulate through policy proposals and issue-based reporting the vastly different visions the candidates for governor have for the future of our state.

Regardless of your political affiliation, trusted, nonpartisan election reporting is the bedrock of an informed electorate and an informed vote. As always, all of our public-service election coverage will be free and available to all on spotlightpa.org and through our more than 90 community newsroom partners across the state that republish our work.

For the first time, Spotlight PA will be translating its election guides into Spanish and distributing them through our Spanish-language partners as well as in partnership with Latino Connection, a marketing and communications firm that specializes in reaching Latino communities.

This vital work is only possible with your support. If you value this public-service approach to election reporting, help Spotlight PA continue to empower voters to get involved and strengthen our democracy. You can make a tax-deductible gift to Spotlight PA now at spotlightpa.org/donate, and as a special bonus, all gifts will be doubled through Sept. 24.

Contents

  1. The races we will cover, and why
  2. How we will cover the candidates
  3. How we will cover voting
  4. How we will cover voting results
  5. How you can help guide our coverage
  6. Where you can find our coverage

The races we will cover, and why

Candidates for U.S. Senate, governor, Congress, and the state legislature will be on the ballot this November. But the race for governor and the legislative contests will have the most direct impact on the lives of Pennsylvanians, and that’s where we’ll focus.

In particular, the governor’s race is central to the mandate of Spotlight PA. The governor wields significant power in Pennsylvania, approving or vetoing legislation, managing a massive state employee workforce, and overseeing state agencies that spend billions of taxpayer dollars.

With a long-established history of Republican control in the legislature, the governor’s race is key to the state’s future: Will Republicans control both legislative and executive branches and be able to advance key priorities that Wolf has blocked, or will Democrats retain control of the executive branch and be able to blunt policies from the GOP that they oppose?

Our reporters cover officials and lawmakers in Harrisburg, not Washington, and are in a strong position to explain the critical importance of the gubernatorial race and the policy positions of the candidates. So that’s where we’ll focus the majority of our coverage.

Our government team also closely follows the 253-member General Assembly, but it would be impossible for us to provide in-depth coverage of every single race. Instead, we’ll focus on the most contested legislative races and those that carry statewide importance.

How we will cover the candidates

Spotlight PA will not publish “horse race” coverage — stories that focus on campaign stops, the latest attacks, or who is winning or losing in the polls. For one, other news outlets will provide that coverage, and we don’t see a need to duplicate it. If you’d like to follow the day-to-day developments on the campaign trail, sign up for Spotlight PA’s daily newsletter, PA Post.

Horse race coverage has also been shown to exacerbate the extreme partisanship we see today. Research compiled by The Journalist’s Resource, a project of Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center and the Carnegie-Knight Initiative, shows that these stories can lead to distrust in news outlets and politicians as well as create an “uninformed electorate.”

Instead, Spotlight PA will focus on the policy positions of the gubernatorial candidates in our “One Vote, Two Pennsylvanias” series, which will very clearly lay out for readers what Pennsylvania would look like under Democrat Josh Shapiro or Republican Doug Mastriano.

In addition to an in-depth guide to the race, Spotlight PA will also publish individual stories explaining the candidates’ positions on key issues. Those will be informed by our reporters talking with elected officials, candidates, campaign staffers, and you — the voters.

Spotlight PA is also working closely with Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College, to analyze the college’s monthly election polls. This information will help Spotlight PA focus on topics voters have identified as most important.

Spotlight PA does not publish any editorial or opinion content, nor does it take a position on any particular political party or policy. The newsroom also does not endorse candidates.

How we will cover voting

There are three aspects to our effort to empower voters: The first is to provide trusted information about where candidates stand on the issues. The second is to explain how elections in Pennsylvania are run, how to properly cast a ballot, and how to get involved in the process. And the third is to educate voters on how they can protect themselves against misinformation and other purposeful efforts to peddle falsehoods or sow confusion.

We will publish guides on how to research candidates, how to become a poll worker, and how to vote, whether you choose to do it by mail or in person. All of this coverage — plus key dates, sample ballots, and more — is available as part of a new Spotlight PA Election Center website.

After the last presidential election and in the years since, Pennsylvania’s voting process — in particular, its mail voting law — has come under intense scrutiny and attack by Republicans, some of whom have advanced false or misleading claims put forth by former President Donald Trump. Our coverage will seek to help readers parse the noise from the facts.

This approach, called “prebunking,” is an alternative to the traditional fact-checking done by news organizations. Instead of chasing down every false claim, we seek to educate and empower voters to better recognize these efforts and guard against them.

How we will cover voting results

News organizations have traditionally collected voting results in hopes of reporting on a winner or projected winner in a race the night of the election. For a number of reasons, this approach is no longer viable in Pennsylvania and can contribute to confusion and mistrust.

Counties are unable to process mail ballots before Election Day, and many have different procedures for when they count votes and in what order. For example, some counties will only tabulate in-person votes on Election Day, and then move to mail-in ballots. Because Republicans tend to vote in person more than Democrats, that can skew early results.

For those reasons and more, we will not report the ongoing tally of votes as they are counted. Instead, we will wait for the vast majority or all of the ballots to be tabulated and then report on the projected winner. What matters isn’t being first, but being right.

How you can help guide our coverage

Spotlight PA’s coverage aims to put voters first, and that means we want to hear from you about the issues and questions you have about the race. We won’t be able to answer all of them, but our team of reporters will get to as many as possible.

Send a message using the form below (if you can’t see the form, click here):

Where you can find our coverage

All of Spotlight PA’s election coverage will be available on our site and will be shared with our more than 90 newsroom partners across the state. We have also launched Spotlight PA’s new Election Center with a voter toolbox, key dates, a feed of election-related stories, an interactive sample ballot, and a campaign finance tracker.

If you’re subscribed to one of our newsletters, you’ll also get periodic Voter Alerts letting you know about our latest coverage, key developments, and important upcoming dates. If you’re not yet subscribed, you can do so at spotlightpa.org/newsletters.

WHILE YOU’RE HERE… If you learned something from this story, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage ahead of Pennsylvania's high-stakes fall election.