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

Gerrymandered courts? Advocates fear they're coming to Pa.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
December 30, 2020
Satellite offices, delayed aid, a 2020 Capitol recap, a controversial tax, and a Pennsylvania tradition to ring in a new year. Happy Wednesday.
PUT US OVER THE TOP: We're just $4,755 away from unlocking a $10,000 challenge grant. But we only have until midnight Thursday. Become a member now and your gift of any amount will be DOUBLED. Because the truth matters.

A week before the Nov. 3 election, state officials urged voters not to risk a late arrival of their ballot through the mail and instead to return it in person.

All voters could do that at their county election office, but some Pennsylvanians had the additional options of drop boxes and satellite locations. The latter expanded the number of places where people could essentially vote early, by requesting a ballot in person and submitting it on the same day.

Of the state’s 67 counties, six of the most highly populated decided to open auxiliary offices. Pro-voting organizers told Spotlight PA and Votebeat they made voting easier and more accessible to those who couldn’t or didn’t want to go to the polls.

But after what local officials said was the most expensive election ever, counties aren’t sure how, or if, they’ll keep using satellite offices.

THE CONTEXT: Just one of the six counties told reporter Tom Lisi they have firm plans to continue using the offices in the future. Officials in other areas are still assessing what to do next.

It's hard to say if these auxiliary locations boosted turnout. 

State officials did not provide a number for how many voters took advantage of the satellite offices, but a spokesperson for the Department of State said that about 125,000 ballots were cast in person at a county election or secondary office. That’s about 5% of the 2.6 million mail ballots cast in the general election.

Local officials did, however, report high demand, especially to request a mail ballot in person rather than take a chance with the U.S. Postal Service.


“I also thought maybe I’m not good enough, not smart enough."

— Dr. Katalin Kairo, who developed biotechnology that was instrumental in the COVID-19 vaccine, on a demotion earlier in her career at the University of Pennsylvania

POST IT: Thanks, Robert N., for this shot of a glowing holiday tree in Hershey. Send us your hidden gems (or your snow photos!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
DELAYED AID: The more than 500,000 unemployed Pennsylvanians receiving federal pandemic-related benefits will likely have to wait several more weeks before they see those benefits resume, TribLIVE reports. The benefits lapsed after President Donald Trump delayed signing an extension of the CARES Act passed by Congress.

COURT CONCERNS: Good-government groups are growing increasingly worried about potential gerrymandering in the state court system, WHYY reports. The GOP-controlled legislature wants to elect appellate judges by region, instead of in statewide contests, and is pushing a constitutional amendment to do so.

2020 RECAP: From battles over Gov. Tom Wolf's executive power to a bill paving the way for robots to make your deliveries, PennLive looked back at all the ways the state legislature shaped your life in a year like no other.

STEPPING DOWN: The federal prosecutor who made an unusual and controversial announcement in September about a handful of discarded ballots is stepping down, The Hill reports. David Freed made headlines when he said nine military ballots in Luzerne County, including seven for President Donald Trump, had apparently been thrown out, a level of specificity his predecessors said was inappropriate

TAXED: More than a year after voters approved a special tax to raise money for parks, Pittsburgh City Council voted to finally put the plan into motion, WESA reports. Still, three local lawmakers objected, saying it was unwise to raise taxes during a pandemic.   
» THE TIME IS NOW: We need to raise $4,755 in the next two days to unlock a $10,000 matching gift from The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. From redistricting to the coronavirus, criminal justice to the legislature, there's a lot of ground for us to cover in 2021. Help keep Spotlight PA strong. 

Join now and contributions of any amount will be DOUBLED. Thank you to the 40 people who donated Tuesday. Let's keep up the momentum.

A LUCKY MEAL: It's almost time to ring in the new year, and if you're from Pennsylvania, that also means you're getting ready to eat pork and sauerkraut to ensure a brighter year. “A pig, when it roots for food, it roots forward,” Jeff Hershey, president of the Denver Lions Club, told LNP. “That’s supposed to be good luck because you’re moving forward into the new year.”

SIGN(E)ING OFF: Signe Wilkinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, announced she is retiring at the end of the year. How did she find her calling? “It combines my interests in art and politics,” Wilkinson said, “and my lack of interest in spelling.”

SMALL TOWN, BIG DEBATE: The controversy surrounding racist symbols in pro sports that target Native Americans has reached a central Pennsylvania school district, where a debate over that town's "Red Raiders" mascot has gripped the community.

IN MEMORY OF: Seven lives were lost 20 years ago in Philadelphia's worst mass murder. Two decades later, their memories live on as the families of the victims come together to remember their loved ones. 

HEADED TO HAPPY VALLEY: Beau Pribula has solidified his star status when he walks onto Penn State's campus in two years. The junior quarterback and Nittany Lion commit out of Central York High School was just named the Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

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. Love the scrambler? Make a donation to help us end 2020 strong.

Thursday's answer: Onomatopoeia 

Congrats to our daily winners: David I., Mark O., Steve D., Theodore W., Irene R., Mary Ellen T., Bette G., Bill C., John C., Beth T., Kim C., Carol D., Joel S., Patricia R., Lance L., Doug W., Ron P., Chris M., and George S. 
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

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
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, which has combined with Spotlight PA to create Pennsylvania's largest statewide newsroom dedicated to accountability journalism.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.