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A special Thanksgiving Riddler edition

Today, we're thankful for you, our readers and supporters.

A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
November 25, 2021 | spotlightpa.org

Happy Thanksgiving! Today we're sending a special Thanksgiving Riddler edition to share with family and friends. We'll see you next week.
A message from our sponsor...
People Powered Maps from the League of Women Voters are here! Electoral districts belong to all of us, and all of us should have a say in how our districts are drawn. Learn about the People’s Maps for PA House and Senate voting districts and help end gerrymandering.
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It's Thanksgiving, and we at Spotlight PA are continuing the tradition of giving thanks for our readers and members. 

I joined the Spotlight PA team back in February, and I'm still impressed each day by this fantastic collection of journalists. 

Their dogged, essential, and award-winning work is the kind of high-quality reporting that's increasingly rare these days — providing vital checks and balances on elected officials and key insights on urgent issues. 

It's the kind of work all Pennsylvanians need and deserve, not just those who can afford it. And that's why it doesn't belong behind a paywall.

Instead, we make all of our work available at no cost through Spotlight PA and our dozens of local community newsroom partners, in a collaborative journalism network unmatched anywhere in the United States.

All of this is possible because of the generous support of readers like you.

This Thanksgiving, help us provide vital journalism to everyone, regardless of their financial resources. Make a contribution and support Spotlight PA now, and as a special holiday bonus, it will be DOUBLED — meaning today, you can have twice the impact and give the gift of facts and truth. 

Whether you value Spotlight PA's newsletters, stories, events, and more, we are truly grateful, because at the end of the day, we are here to serve you. In a time of cutbacks and closures, Spotlight PA is blazing a new path forward for nonpartisan investigative journalism in Pennsylvania.

The time is now. The future is in our hands. Make a tax-deductible gift today.

Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Spotlight PA.

Warm wishes,
Colin Deppen
Spotlight PA, Newsletter Editor

"It was not worth it to me to put myself through that for $12 an hour."

—Brandilyn Lyon of Warren County, who considered returning to child care work but was kept away by low pay
The U.S. has opened booster shots up to all adults and is urging people 50 and older to get one; staffing shortages and outdated technology continue to hamper the Department of Health’s COVID-19 tracking; and the state's coronavirus death toll has surpassed 33,000 people. Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

» A staffing crisis at Pa. child care centers is upending family routines and slowing the economic recovery

» What we know about the firm hired by the GOP to review Pennsylvania’s 2020 election

» What you need to know about the killing of Christian Hall, 19, by Pennsylvania State Police

What's missing from Pa.'s election results site, and why it matters

A GOP candidate for a key appellate court seat conceded the race on Tuesday — three weeks after voters went to the polls — with unofficial results showing the Democrat winning by 20,000-plus votes.

Those who looked at the results reported on Pennsylvania’s utilitarian election website shortly after Election Day may have expected a different outcome. 

Republican Drew Crompton appeared to have a strong lead for a seat on Commonwealth Court on Nov. 2, but mail ballots that weren’t processed by Philadelphia and a few other counties until several days later pushed Democrat Lori Dumas over the top. 

Counties report election results through the nearly 20-year-old Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, or SURE system. That information is fed into the public website, which does not reveal how many in-person, mail, and provisional ballots are left to count — making it difficult to interpret what early results mean in close races. 

The state lacks an “effective means of collecting unofficial precinct returns at this time,” said state department spokesperson Ellen Lyon. The SURE system is scheduled for a $4.5 million revamp over the next two years.

But the election website itself isn’t to blame for slow returns.

In 2019, Pennsylvania enacted Act 77, a law allowing every voter to cast a ballot by mail without needing a justification. But officials still must wait until the morning of Election Day to open and count those ballots, a provision they’ve repeatedly asked the legislature to change. 

A House bill that would overhaul elections in Pennsylvania could prevent some of the delays seen after Nov. 2, including by allowing officials to begin “pre-canvassing” five days before Election Day.

But a GOP amendment added this month would also require counties to report all unofficial results — including those from mail ballots — by 6 a.m. the morning after Election Day. Failing to do so could mean losing out on state reimbursement the bill sets up for election-related costs.

Democrats argued the time constraints in the bill would place unnecessary burdens on already stressed local resources and prioritize timely election results over accurate ones. Under current law, counties can start counting mail ballots up to three days after Election Day.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday he would veto the bill in its current form.

Danielle Ohl, Spotlight PA

PUBLIC PRIORITIES: Gov. Tom Wolf this week released his priorities for the state's next congressional map as determined by a panel of experts, the AP reports. Talks between the Democrat and the Republican lawmakers who must negotiate with him have been light thus far.

BIG PAYBACK: Threatening and unclear language in the Department of Labor and Industry’s accidental overpayment notices is intimidating Pennsylvanians who received unemployment benefits during the pandemic. WESA reports frustration and confusion among beneficiaries and their advocates.

'CITY OF PRAYER': Most outside mentions of Clairton, a steel town 15 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, involve industrial pollution concerns, reports of late-night shootings, or high school football. PublicSource sent a photographer there for a more nuanced portrait of the city — one the outlet calls a "microcosm of the broader Rust Belt" and the varied impacts of the steel industry's decline.

FIELD FORM: Former Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai is entering the Republican race for governor, joining a sprawling field of primary candidates, including the top Republican in the state Senate, Jake Corman (R., Centre), The Caucus reports. In the concurrent race for U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Politico reports that yes, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz is serious about his Republican run.

TIL: York was home to the first official Thanksgiving celebrated in the U.S. almost 250 years ago, PennLive reports. It was the height of the Revolutionary War and the Continental Congress, which had landed in the "sleepy farming community" after fleeing Philadelphia, was eager to celebrate the nation's newest holiday and a recent military victory. 

» AP: GOP candidate for Commonwealth Court concedes after recount

» BUZZFEED: Judge burned by Capitol rioter throws book at Pa. man

» INQUIRER: Philadelphia is about to set a grim record for homicides 

» READING EAGLE: Ballot mistake turns candidate’s win into a loss

» YDR: Police chief allegedly put stop to PFA against Robert Vicosa
OPEN DOORS (Case No. 120): What kind of key do you use on Thanksgiving? (*This riddle was eagerly submitted by the newsletter author's 7-year-old daughter.)

WONDER YEARS (Case No. 121): What grows up as it grows down? 

CROWD SOURCE (Case No. 122): Grandma and Grandpa had six children. Each of those children had four children of their own. Those children grew up and had two children each. Everyone will join the Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house this year. How many people will be there?

This week, you can check the answers here

Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.
Last week's answer: He threw the ball straight up. (Find last week's clue here.)
Congrats to Alberta V., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Annette I., Michael H., Jon N., Philip C., Jenn M., Michele M., Catherine J., Jeffrey F., Ira B., James D., Dan W., Hagan H., Joe S., Judy A., Kenneth J., Roseanne D., Dennis F., William D., Karen K., Donna D., Ken S., Lynda G., Rachel C., Beth T., Thomas D., Lindsey S., Geoff B., Norman S., Eileen D., Robert K., Alice O., Fred O., Lou R., Michelle T., Jeff W., George S., Johnny C., Mary B., William H., and Dennis P.
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