Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Gaps in Pa. mail voting law set up fresh disputes

Plus, the latest guides on voting and the candidates.

A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA

October 6, 2022 | spotlightpa.org
Legal ambiguity, voter guides, insurance bill, election coverage, local accountability, open seat, no takers, inside info, and impeachment allies.

Gray areas in the 2019 law that created widespread mail voting in Pennsylvania still haven't been clarified, opening the door for more legal action and public confusion after the upcoming gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

Stephen Caruso and Katie Meyer report that courts have ruled on some mail ballot questions already, and the Department of State has tried to clear up confusion by issuing related guidance.

But that guidance isn't legally binding and may not be followed by all counties, particularly those controlled by Republican commissioners, potentially resulting in a confusing patchwork of rules that vary statewide.

Also this week, Spotlight PA's coverage of the governor's race continues with breakdowns of where the top two candidates — Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano — stand on key issues like energy and the environment as well as college funding and student debt.

And finally, a bill that would make it easier for chronically ill patients to get new treatments approved by insurers is being prioritized by Pennsylvania lawmakers in the final days of this legislative session.

Stephen Caruso reports changes to a topic as complicated as state insurance law, even with bipartisan backing, can get messy quickly, and similar efforts have failed to reach the finish line before.


"Patients need the ability to quickly assess their condition with their medical professionals to find the best course of action..."

—Emma Watson, chief lobbyist for the state branch of the American Cancer Society, on a chronically ill patients bill that's being lobbied for in Harrisburg

Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:
»  Energy & Environment
»  College Funding & Student Debt
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGTBQ Rights

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks.

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:
»  Everything you need to know about mail ballots
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
»  These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election for 50+ years
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español: 
»  Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
»  Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
»  Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» AP: Doug Mastriano's plan for Pennsylvania school choice, explained
» BILLY PENN: Fact-check animal abuse claims against Mehmet Oz
» INQUIRER: Pa.'s shifting political landscape, by the numbers (paywall)
» POLITICO: Republicans gain ground in Pa.'s crucial U.S. Senate race
» INSIDE CLIMATE: Climate activists are reluctantly backing Fetterman
» PENNLIVE: Shapiro unsure about Gov. Wolf's carbon-cutting plan

Meet Spotlight PA State College’s local accountability reporter

Hello! I’m Min Xian, a local accountability reporter for Spotlight PA’s State College regional bureau. It is a pleasure to introduce myself in this role, as I believe deeply in Spotlight PA’s mission to produce and expand investigative journalism in Pennsylvania.

Before I joined Spotlight PA, I covered state and local government, changing communities, and rural affairs in central and northern Pennsylvania for five years for WPSU, a public radio station.

One of my favorite stories to report on was how a group of residents in rural Huntingdon County formed a broadband cooperative and delivered high-speed internet to their own homes, as well as their neighbors’, when big telecom companies refused to do so. The tenacity and can-do optimism of the people I met while reporting this story were reflective of many people in rural areas.

I have also had the good fortune to work on statewide collaborative reporting projects, including an investigative series on Pennsylvania’s lack of funding for adequate public defense, and a story about a small rural Pennsylvania town’s fight to hold its police chief accountable amid national protests.

From these various reporting experiences, I learned that what I aspire to do most is tell investigative stories through rigorous scrutiny of power and a deep understanding of how our collective day-to-day realities are shaped.

Since I joined Spotlight PA’s first-ever regional bureau in July, I have reported on the changing financial and operational landscape of volunteer fire companies, highlighting an ongoing disagreement in Centre County’s Walker Township. The highly nuanced debate of how to fund fire and rescue services there proved to be relevant statewide.

Moving forward, I hope to examine how local government is working — or not — at the municipal and county level, with a focus on the north-central region of the commonwealth. I’m interested in learning how taxpayer dollars are spent and shedding light on common issues that resonate beyond any one place.

So, readers old and new, let’s be in touch! I’d love to hear about the way public and private institutions influence your life, issues that are the “talk of the town,” and things you believe deserve to be under the spotlight. A light bulb turns on in my head when people say to me, “Well, it’s more complicated than that.” Let’s get into messy conversations.

I have called State College home for nine years, and north-central Pennsylvania simply has my heart. I enjoy the four seasons, the amazing farming culture, the small-town histories, and all the thrift stores.

You can reach me at mxian@spotlightpa.org or 267-618-6677.

SUDDEN VACANCY: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer died last week at the age of 74, leaving an opening on the high court. It's unclear if outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will appoint a replacement or if the choice will fall to the winner of the Nov. 8 governor's race, per PennLive. Voters will choose Baer's long-term successor in 2023. Any appointment would require two-thirds state Senate support.

SCOTUS DENIAL: The U.S. Supreme Court will not take up a Republican-led appeal challenging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's adoption of a new congressional map favored by Democrats, per Reuters. The challenge, led by former Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, cited a fringe reading of the U.S. Constitution that backers say limits the ability of state courts to get involved in federal election map-making.

SWING SURVEYS: Votebeat reports election-denying allies of former President Donald Trump have interviewed or attempted to interview hundreds of election officials in swing states like Pennsylvania in the run-up to November's midterms, noting the questions they provided "appear intended to detect potential weaknesses in local election systems and gather detailed information about how elections are run." 

KRASNER CRITICS: The push to impeach progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over rising violent crime in the city is being led by Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg, with some Democratic support. For example: Sources told The Intercept that state Rep. Jordan Harris (D., Philadelphia) voted against holding Krasner in contempt but privately whipped votes in the other direction

LEGAL MOTION: Several news outlets are urging a judge to unseal the warrant that led to the seizure of GOP Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry's cellphone last month by federal agents investigating 2020 election meddling. The York Dispatch, the York Daily Record, and The Patriot-News say the public deserves to know the basis for the move and that unsealing the record would "provide that transparency."

» AP: Judge blocks Philly's new gun ban at rec centers, playgrounds

» NBC10: How Philly police dumped crime data at Disney World

» POST-GAZETTE: Shell plant ramps up, so does surveillance (paywall)

» PUBLICSOURCE: Most dangerous time for college students is now

» TRIBLIVE: Push to fix Pa.'s 'justice by geography' issue clears hurdle

Send your answers to riddler@spotlightpa.org.

HIGH PRESSURE (Case No. 167)What has 13 hearts but no other organs?
Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.
Last week's answer: Live / Evil. (Find last week's clue here)
Congrats to John D., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Annette I., Michael H., John H., Judy A., Michelle T., George S., Peter S., Kathy M., Mary Jo J., Tish M., Joe M., Fred O., Robert K., Johnny C., and Jay G.
Like The Investigator? Share it with a friend.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
228 Walnut St., #11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


This email was sent to: <<Email Address>>

You're receiving this email because you signed up for updates about Spotlight PA's journalism. 
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.