Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit newsroom producing investigative and public-service journalism that holds power to account and drives positive change in Pennsylvania. Sign up for our free newsletters.
HARRISBURG — The 2024 presidential election will again make Pennsylvania a central focus of national politics. But voters here will also weigh in on critical state races that tend to get less attention despite the big impact these contests will have on the future of the commonwealth.
The goal of Spotlight PA’s 2024 election coverage is to cast aside the horse race, the talking heads, and the cable news shouting matches, and instead amplify the facts and context voters will need to make an informed choice in their best interest.
In short, we will put voters first.
Our nonpartisan election coverage this year will have three key pillars: connecting the stakes of each race to the lives of Pennsylvanians, monitoring and explaining the systems that underpin Pennsylvania elections and their administration, and combating lies and safeguarding our democracy.
Spotlight PA will provide essential election information to Pennsylvanians on the candidates in key races, how to participate in the electoral process, and how election systems are supposed to work.
We will create interactive tools and resources to help voters choose the candidates who best reflect their needs and values, and make it more difficult for misinformation to take hold. We will also expand our Spanish-language election content and partnerships.
In addition to our robust election coverage plan, Spotlight PA will embark on several ambitious projects that aim to reach, educate, and empower voters in new ways.
This voter-centric approach builds upon the years of election reporting at the core of our public-service mission. Regardless of political affiliation, trusted and nonpartisan election reporting is the bedrock of an informed electorate and an informed vote.
As always, all of Spotlight PA’s public-service election coverage will be free and available to all on spotlightpa.org and through the more than 100 community newsroom partners across the state that republish our work.
» If you value Spotlight PA’s nonpartisan election reporting that puts voters first, please help support us in this critical year by making a tax-deductible gift at spotlight.org/donate, or send a check to: Spotlight PA, PO Box 11728, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728.
The races we will cover and why
There are a few major types of races happening in Pennsylvania this year: the presidential, congressional (U.S. House and Senate), row office (attorney general, auditor general, and treasurer), and legislative elections.
We’ll cover each one a little differently based on our resources, and what we expect other media coverage will capture.
Because the presidential election will be the big-ticket item on the ballot this year, we know there will be plenty of coverage of it nationally and from other outlets here in the state. Our coverage will primarily focus on the state’s administration of the election, and combating misinformation.
We won’t cover the day-to-day events of the presidential contest, but we will report on attempts by the candidates to undermine trust in the election; major voting litigation involving these candidates; and any effort to pressure state lawmakers to influence the outcome of the race.
This year, Pennsylvanians will also elect a new U.S. senator and vote in crucial state races. Our coverage will primarily focus on these races.
Pennsylvania’s row officers — the attorney general, auditor general, and treasurer — hold some of the highest executive positions in the commonwealth, and play a huge part in the legal and financial well-being of our state.
Although they typically don’t receive the same attention that other elected officials do, their roles are no less important. They are responsible for operations that can affect virtually every Pennsylvanian, from pursuing criminal prosecution to managing state funds and accounting for money spent.
The race for U.S. Senate, meanwhile, will crucially determine which party controls the chamber. Incumbent Democrat Bob Casey seeks a fourth term in office and faces one primary challenger. The Republican field includes five candidates, including David McCormick, who lost the 2022 GOP primary to Mehmet Oz.
Our government team will closely follow the General Assembly elections, though it’ll be impossible for us to provide in-depth coverage of every race. Instead, we’ll focus on the most contested legislative races and those that carry statewide importance.
How we will cover candidates
As we’ve done in previous years, Spotlight PA will provide in-depth information about candidates, their policy positions, and what those policies would mean for Pennsylvania. These reports will be informed by our newsroom talking with elected officials, candidates, campaign staffers, and you — the voters.
In addition to issue-based guides and detailed reporting about office seekers, our government team will produce candidate guides for the following races: attorney general, treasurer, auditor general, and U.S. Senate. These guides will also be available in Spanish and distributed through our Spanish-language partners.
What we will not do: publish “horse race” coverage — stories that focus on campaign stops, the latest attacks, or who is winning or losing in the polls. Other news outlets will provide that coverage, and we don’t see a need to duplicate it. If you’d like to follow the granular 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 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.”
Additionally, 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, the electoral system, and misinformation
Our effort to empower voters has three planks: to provide reliable information about where candidates stand on the issues; to explain how elections in Pennsylvania are run; and to educate voters on how to protect themselves against misinformation.
We call this a voter-centric approach.
We will produce voter guides for the primary and general elections that provide critical information about deadlines, where to vote, how to vote, and how to get involved in the process. All of this coverage will be available as part of the Spotlight PA Election Center website — which we expect to relaunch in late February — and will also be available in Spanish.
A focal point of our 2024 coverage will be Pennsylvania’s electoral system and how it operates. We will demystify the electoral process and present voters with accurate information about election administration, from mail ballots to voting machines to voter rights to how votes are counted. We will also report on election lawsuits in real time and use our statewide contacts on the ground to bring the latest updates to voters.
After the 2020 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 help readers parse the noise from the facts.
This approach, called “prebunking,” is an alternative to traditional fact-checking by news organizations. Instead of chasing down every false claim, we educate and empower voters to better recognize these efforts and guard against them. In doing so, we monitor for areas of voter confusion and explain how processes and government work. Confusion is often the precursor to mis- and disinformation taking hold.
To further literacy on misinformation, Spotlight PA will also create resources that teach voters how to spot misleading information and other purposeful efforts that threaten democracy.
We aim to support readers in their search for facts.
If you are concerned about confusing or false information being disseminated about this election or the voting process, please contact us using the form below. Your observations on the ground may help shape our reporting on the election.
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 on the night of the election. For many reasons, this approach is no longer viable in Pennsylvania during some high-turnout elections and can contribute to confusion and mistrust.
By state law, Pennsylvania counties cannot process mail ballots before Election Day, and many have different procedures for counting votes and in what order. For example, some counties will only tabulate in-person votes on Election Day, and then move to mail ballots. Because Republicans tend to vote in person more than Democrats, that can skew early results.
For those reasons and more, we will not publish results stories until the vast majority or all of the ballots are tabulated and then report on the projected winner. What matters to us is being right, not first.
For voters interested in seeing rolling tallies, Spotlight PA for the first time will publish and make available for free a tool that displays Associated Press results. Learn more about how the AP calls races here.
How we connect our coverage to voters
In 2024, Spotlight PA will continue past efforts — and launch a set of new projects — designed to engage voters and connect them with crucial election information.
As we do every year, Spotlight PA will host a robust slate of virtual events that highlight the candidates and their positions, explain voter rights, and break down election results.
New in 2024 are some in-person events across the state — some in collaboration with news and community organizations — that will provide Pennsylvania voters with election information on a variety of topics.
Thanks to support from the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Newsroom Safety Across America initiative, Spotlight PA will provide reporters and editors with election reporting safety training. We are partnering with WITF in Harrisburg and LNP in Lancaster, and the Pittsburgh Media Partnership, to serve journalists in those regions.
Spanish-language resources and outreach
Spotlight PA will continue to offer our election content, voter resources, and guides in Spanish, to reach the growing Latino voting bloc that resides in the state. Part of this endeavor includes growing our Spanish-language partners across the state to distribute this content to, as well as partnering with community organizations to host in-person and virtual events.
To help voters navigate the election process, Spotlight PA will debut two new interactive tools this year.
The race for attorney general is shaping up to be a crowded one. Our first tool of the year will help Democratic and Republican primary voters find the candidate who most aligns with their values and ideals.
In our ongoing commitment to battle mis- and disinformation, Spotlight PA will also publish a tool to help voters understand and identify common logical fallacies used to spread false claims, and then explain how best to combat them. This interactive tool will focus on building literacy rather than addressing specific false claims.
How you can help guide our coverage
Spotlight PA’s coverage aims to put voters first.
Our team has Pennsylvania's first and only democracy editor, Elizabeth Estrada, to lead our Democracy Initiative. Estrada’s mission is to identify the information voters need to make an informed decision and make sure it reaches them, and to help answer your questions.
In collaboration with News Developer Jeff Rummel, the two will ensure Spotlight PA’s Election Center is a one-stop resource for all voter and candidate guides, watchdog coverage, and public-service tools and explainers.
If you have ideas for the Democracy Initiative and how Spotlight PA can better serve you this election, contact Estrada at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Between now and Nov. 5, Spotlight PA wants to hear your questions about the races. 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 through more than 100 newsroom partners across the state. All election-related content, from stories to voter guides and interactive tools, will also be available in our Election Center.
If you subscribe 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. Sign up at spotlightpa.org/newsletters.
BEFORE YOU GO… If you learned something from this article, pay it forward and contribute to Spotlight PA at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.