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How Pa. could be next Bush v. Gore

The Investigator

Special 2020 Election Edition

Oct. 29, 2020 | spotlightpa.org
First, let's take a deep breath. There is a ton of election-related news right now, and a lot of talk about doomsday scenarios. Most of those hinge on the election, or the Electoral College count, being close. If it isn't, or if the race doesn't turn on Pennsylvania, things might not get quite as heated.

But if the stars align and it does come down to our state, it could be a pitched legal battle. First, Spotlight PA and Votebeat have this great primer on how Pennsylvania could be the center of a new Bush v. Gore from 2000, with challenges focused on mail ballots and, not hanging chads, but postmarks.

The saga surrounding Pennsylvania's first general election with mail balloting continues. As of the Tuesday deadline, nearly 3.1 million mail ballots were requested — representing about one-third of all registered voters — and 2.1 million have been returned. That leaves about 1 million outstanding.

Return rates across the counties for mail ballots all look pretty uniform — except in Butler County. Officials there on Wednesday conceded potentially thousands of requested ballots were lost, and they are now scrambling to get new ballots out to everyone who didn't receive one.

If you have a mail ballot, DO NOT MAIL IT. With ongoing postal service delays, it's very possible it will not arrive by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Officials are advising you to either return it directly to your county election office or a drop box, or to take the entire mail ballot to the polls and request to vote in person. Here's an explainer of who can and cannot return your ballot for you.

But what about that extension for mail ballots? Don't count on it. While the state Supreme Court has said counties could count ballots received until Nov. 6, as long as they were mailed by Election Day, the U.S. Supreme Court might still weigh in on the issue and possibly invalidate the extension.

If you're going to the polls Tuesday, Spotlight PA wants to hear from you about any trouble, long lines, voter intimidation, racism, or violence. Already in Erie County, county officials have taken steps to limit gatherings of armed individuals near polls. If you have questions, you can check out our voting Q&A or RSVP now for our free, live reader Q&A at 10 a.m. Monday.

Christopher Baxter of Spotlight PA

"We’re going to create a school district in a city that just has a deep, deep sense of poverty, like it was in the ’60s in the South."

— Damaris Rau, superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, on how the state's funding formula is shortchanging her Black and Latino students

Latest on COVID-19

 The state this week set another daily record for new confirmed cases, and hospitalizations are significantly increasing. Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, and sign up for alerts for your county

More from Spotlight PA

» Analysis: Pa. schools need an additional $4.6 billion to close education gaps
» Court green lights Hershey’s $350 million plan for six free childhood centers

The 15 Pa. House and Senate races to watch Tuesday

Democrats have a chance to take the majority in the Pennsylvania House, a lot of groups are spending big to make that happen, and Republicans are furiously fighting back. Here are the contests to watch:


What Democrats need: A net gain of nine seats 

What are the odds: The nonpartisan Cook Political Report calls the race for the House majority a toss up.



151st, Montgomery County
Incumbent Todd Stephens (R) | Democrat Jonathan Kassa

178th, Bucks County
Incumbent Wendi Thomas (R) | Ann Marie Mitchell (D)

18th, Bucks County
Incumbent Kathleen Tomlinson (R) | Harold Hayes (D)

168th, Delaware County
Incumbent Chris Quinn (R) | Deb Ciamacca (D)

131st, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton Counties
Milou Mackenzie (R) | Kevin Branco (D)

105th, Dauphin County
Incumbent Andrew Lewis (R) | Brittney Rodas (D)

28th, Allegheny County
Rob Mercuri (R) | Emily Skopov (D)

33rd, Allegheny, Westmoreland Counties
Carrie DelRosso (R) | Incumbent Frank Dermody (D)

176th, Monroe County
Incumbent Jack Rader Jr. (R) | Claudette Williams (D)

72nd, Cambria County
Howard Terndrup (R) | Incumbent Frank Burns (D)


What Democrats need: A net gain of four seats.

What are the odds: The nonpartisan Cook Political Report says the chamber leans Republican.



9th, Delaware and Chester Counties
Incumbent Tom Killion (R) | John Kane (D)

15th, Dauphin, Perry Counties
Incumbent John DiSanto (R) | George Scott (D)

49th, Erie County
Incumbent Dan Laughlin (R) | Julie Slomski (D)

13th, Lancaster County
Incumbent Scott Martin (R) | Janet Diaz (D)

37th, Allegheny and Washington Counties
Devlin Robinson (R) | Incumbent Pam Iovino (D)

Ed Mahon of Spotlight PA

From across the state

» As Election Day nears, mail delays — specifically in Philadelphia, parts of Pittsburgh, and central counties — are worsening, according to U.S. Postal Service data filed as a part of a federal lawsuit. Postal workers told PennLive that short staffing and the removal of five sorting machines is to blame.

» The police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man who approached officers with a knife in the midst of a mental health crisis, feels all too familiar to the West Philadelphia community. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, promises of police reform made just months ago now seem hollow to residents.

More good reads

» CAPITAL-STAR: Former guv candidate at the center of Trump vaccine push

» HAARETZ: Pittsburgh Jews still fear far-right violence years after massacre

» PUBLIC SOURCE: What the media gets right and wrong about fracking

» TIMES LEADER: Luzerne County Council votes to withdraw Barrett recusal filing

» USA TODAY: Report: Pa. is at high risk for Election Day activity by armed groups

» WAPO: In Gettysburg, Trump supporters clash with Black Lives Matter protesters

» WHYY: Glitch sends more than 4,000 voters two mail ballots

Yaasmeen Piper of Spotlight PA


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Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: The rope was tied to the horse, but nothing on the other end.
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