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Your Election Day toolkit and survival guide


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
November 3, 2020
What else is there to say ... it's the Tuesday of all Tuesdays, Election Day 2020. Voters head to polls, Pa. counts ballots, and we help you survive it all.

If you’ve already voted by mail, congrats — your work is done. You can follow all of the day's news on Spotlight PA's 2020 election live blog. You can also read a special note from our editor on how we're covering the election.

For those of you heading out to the polls, here’s what you need to know:

  • Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find your polling place here.
  • Have a mail ballot but want to vote in person? Bring all of the materials to your polling place, ask them to invalidate it, and vote in person.
  • Requested a mail ballot but it never came in the mail? Go to your polling place and ask to vote using a provisional ballot.
  • Unsure your mail ballot arrived in time or might arrive in time? Same advice. Go to your polling place and ask for a provisional ballot.
  • If you are facing a last-minute emergency and can’t get to the polls, you may qualify for an emergency absentee ballot. Read about those here.
  • Have a problem at the polls or believe you are being denied the right to vote? Ask for the local judge of elections, or contact the Department of State hotline at 1-877-868-3772.

The word of the day is patience. Election officials can only begin processing mail-in and absentee ballots this morning, which means it may take days to report the full results. Some counties aren’t planning to begin the process until tomorrow. So if you see any candidates or campaigns declaring victory tonight in hotly contested races, chances are their celebrations are premature.


“There’s so many situations that the police show up, and other people could do that job better.”

— Kris Henderson, executive director of the West Philadelphia-based Amistad Law Project, on calls to defund the police following unrest in Philadelphia 

POST IT: Thank you, Kimberly and Bruce of Ellwood City, for submitting your voter selfie. Send us your voting selfies and pictures of your "I voted" stickers by tagging us on Facebook and Instagram. 
COUNTING COUNTIES: Despite pleas from Pennsylvania's top election official, a handful of counties will not begin counting mail ballots today, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report. This is an important read to understand why in-person voting results might skew Republican, and why that could change once mail ballots are fully counted.

29,000 PROBLEMS: In October, Allegheny County officials announced Midwest Direct had sent thousands of voters the wrong ballots. So how did the county come to rely on the Cleveland-based mailing company? As it turns out, the company did not go through traditional bidding, nor was its contract ever voted on by elected officials, Spotlight PA and Votebeat found.

POLL WORKERS: Amped up efforts have helped recruit an army of new volunteers to work at Pennsylvania’s more than 9,000 polling places. But these newbies face a number of challenges this November, Spotlight PA and Votebeat reports, including training that varies from county to county. Remember: Poll workers and poll watchers are different.

BOUNDLESS: Remember when COVID-19 was a city problem? Those days are gone now, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. There is now significant transmission in rural, suburban, and urban counties across the state.

RECENT HISTORY: In the 1990s, Mike Roman was able to persuade a Pennsylvania judge to throw out hundreds of ballots, handing a victory to a Republican in a Philadelphia state Senate district. Now, he's leading President Donald Trump's "army" of poll watchers, the Associated Press reports.
» A VOTE FOR THE TRUTH: Become a member of Spotlight PA today to support fearless nonpartisan journalism in Pennsylvania.

Thank you to everyone who had their gifts TRIPLED yesterday: Willonda M., Robert N., Genevieve R., George G., Susan L., Norman S.A., Karen M., Peggy C., Susan H., Richard W., David A., Claudia M., Ralf G., Charles B., Michael G., Janelle W., Douglas W., Anne H., Annette I., Carol R., Jacqueline M., Jeannette L., Lynne E., Kari O., Scott S., Hannah C., Jennifer H., Kim O., and James N.
YOUR FOOD PLAN: It's getting cold out, and with anxiety running high, some good ol' fashion Pennsylvania comfort food is just the ticket to get you through the long night (and nights?) ahead. Here are some recipes.

NO THANKS, WOLF: Can't stomach wall-to-wall Wolf Blitzer on CNN all night? How about spending the time caring for yourself, instead? Here's a rundown from Vox on the ways people are managing their stress.

LOOK, A CUTE DOG: If you need to read something that has nothing to do with politics or the election, check out this heartwarming story about a black lab from the Post-Gazette. Those adorable ears can make anyone smile.

BINGO! If you're spending the night with family or friends, cut through the tension by debating intense policy issues like abortion and climate change ... kidding. But they might make great squares for your custom bingo board.

TUNE OUT: Admittedly, news organizations don't usually advocate tuning out, but we're not like every news organization. Consider muting your social media and limiting your social doomscrolling. After all, it's very possible we won't know the winner tonight anyway.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. If you love the scrambler, make a donation and we'll TRIPLE it.

Yesterday's answer: Incumbent

Congrats to our daily winners: Irene K., Brandie K., Patricia R., Lynne E., Ann S., Robert K., Theodore W., Rick K., Kirk W., Bruce B., Irene R., Craig W., Beth T., Chris W., Heidi B., Tracey C., Dennis K., Michael B., Kim C., Deb N., Chris M., George S., Mary Ellen T., Patricia M., Ann and John, Joel S., Ron P., Theresa O., Patsy K., Carol D., Dianne K., Sue S., Jeffery S., and Lex M.
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