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Mysterious 2020 election recount has rural Pa. ties


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 24, 2021
Election audit, gift reveal, relief tracker, disaster plan, historical fiction, PSERS push, and did you win the lottery? It's Monday. Welcome to the week.
The company conducting an anonymously funded hand recount of 2.1 million Arizona ballots from last year's presidential election conducted an equally mysterious audit in one rural Pennsylvania county first, the Arizona Mirror reports.

Republican Pennsylvania state Sens. Doug Mastriano and Judy Ward asked Fulton County officials to allow the West Chester-based Wake Technology Services Inc. to conduct an audit of the county's 2020 election, which local officials did. 

Mastriano, a prominent booster of meritless 2020 election fraud theories, did not respond to multiple messages from the Mirror, an online outlet launched with a progressive fund's backing. Ward said she passed along the audit request to Fulton County officials on Mastriano's behalf. 

The reporting provides new insight into some of the players and motives behind Arizona's contentious, chaotic, and highly secretive recount effort — one the Washington Post says has inspired similar pushes in communities nationwide.

But plenty of questions remain, including:
  • Who paid for the Fulton County audit? (A county commissioner said he has no idea.)
  • Why audit a county former President Donald Trump won by a 6-to-1 margin?
  • And why is Wake Technology Services Inc., a tech company focused on the health-care sector, conducting election audits in the first place?

THE CONTEXT: A state-run pilot audit of Pennsylvania's 2020 election results confirmed in March that President Joe Biden was rightly declared the winner here but, as is typical of the medium, didn't reveal how well the election was administered on a county-by-county or precinct-level basis, Spotlight PA and Votebeat found.

Election oversight hearings were also convened in Harrisburg, with Republicans calling them a necessary endeavor post-2020 and Democrats a cover for voter suppression. 

Now, after six months of calling for changes to Pennsylvania’s Election Code, Republicans are finally set to unveil their proposals — stricter voter ID, earlier registration deadlines, and mandatory signature verification on mail ballots all possible.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Ryan Aument (R., Lancaster) on Friday announced he'll be introducing legislation to suspend no-excuse mail ballots, which he and other Republicans supported in 2019.

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"It will reinforce our own, I hope, recognition of the responsibility that we have to ensure that law enforcement in Pennsylvania isn’t like law enforcement in some other states."

—Citizen Advisory Commission member Beth Pittinger on the commission's pending review of State Police use-of-force and racial bias incidents
VACCINE UPDATE: Fully vaccinated Americans who have been exposed to COVID-19 but who are asymptomatic themselves can largely skip getting tested for the virus now, the CDC says. The CDC is also probing a small number of reported cases of heart problems in teenagers and young adults who have received the shots, per the New York Times. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Wheatland is a 19th century home located in Lancaster County once owned by James Buchanan, the 15th president of the U.S. Thanks, Anne C., for the photo! Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.

GIFT BAN: For many state lawmakers, 2020 was a banner year for staying home — and eschewing people bearing gifts, at least according to their limited disclosure forms. Pennsylvania is in the minority of states with no limit on the size or number of gifts elected officials can accept. A renewed effort is pushing to change that by banning legislator gifts altogether. History says it faces a steep climb, per Spotlight PA.

RELIEF REQUEST: Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor wants the authority and the money to hire private accounting firms to keep tabs on the $13.5 billion in federal aid state and local governments will soon receive, via City & State. Pennsylvania is set to receive its largest share of federal relief dollars yet through the American Rescue Plan, and DeFoor said it needs to be protected against waste and fraud.

CRISIS RESPONSE: Voters gave state lawmakers new power last Tuesday over a governor's disaster declarations, an ongoing pandemic order being front of mind for most. But the future of a years-old and still-urgent opioid epidemic-inspired declaration is also uncertain, with a GOP spokesperson telling Capital-Star that Republicans in the majority will work with Gov. Tom Wolf before deciding what to do.

RECENT HISTORY: U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) voted last week against a 9/11-style commission to study the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol. Pressed by a C-SPAN caller, Perry downplayed the violence, saying there were "no arms that came in as far as I know, other than the people who were armed at the Capitol as security." WITF reports that's far from true, according to federal charging documents tied to the attack.

STEP DOWN: A powerful union representing 36,000 Pennsylvania educators is calling for the resignation of every Public School Employees Retirement System board member appointed before January 2021, according to PennLive. The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Federation of Teachers says scandals swirling around the $64 billion pension fund have jeopardized the financial security of its members.

SANTORUM SPLIT: Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvana, is now a former CNN political commentator, too, having been dropped by the network over ahistorical and revisionist comments about Native Americans and his subsequent attempt to explain the remarks, HuffPost reports.

NEW HOME: When Texas Sen. Ted Cruz recently lamented and politicized the "jack-hammering" of a First Amendment monument at the former Newseum in D.C., fact-checkers and ratio-happy Twitterati were quick to note the monument wasn't actually destroyed but rather relocated to Philadelphia.

HUMAN TOUCH: Pitt bioengineers and a man who lost significant mobility in a car crash have created a robotic arm controlled by his brain. It used to only receive signals, but now it's sending sensory touch information back and greatly increasing the technology's effectiveness, WESA reports. 

CHALK DAD: Westmoreland County dad Erik Greenawalt's life-like, three-dimensional chalk drawings cover Dr. Seuss, "Schitt's Creek," Dwight Schrute, and more. Greenawalt is self-taught and told KDKA-TV about his favorite works and the downside of being a chalk artist in a rainy climate.

CASH MONEY: Someone in Pennsylvania won more than half a billion dollars over the weekend. It's unknown exactly where in Pennsylvania the winning $515 million lotto ticket was sold. I'll provide an update and my Venmo handle for the winner ASAP.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Friday's answer: Interesting

Congrats to our weekly winner: Brian B.

And congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Irene R., Mary Ellen T., Barbara F., Patricia R., Dixie S., Susan D., Elaine C., Jill M., Neal W., Mary H., Yvette R., Mike B., Patricia M., Diane P., Beth T., David I., Maureen G., Cris F., Michelle T., Elizabeth W., Carol D., James B., Tish M., Adrien M., Steve D., Dennis M., George S., Dianne K., Doris B., Heidi B., Richard D., Johnny C., Mary Kay M., Jill A., Don H., Suzanne S., Karen W., Fred O., Alice B., Myles M., David W., Aaron T., and Lex M.
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