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Pa. GOP split on ‘Stop the Steal’-style audit


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 4, 2021
Audit battle, suspect's past, main street blues, private equity, seeking Perry, Medicaid access, and a state-sanctioned 'Office' reference. It's Friday.
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To audit or not to audit — that appears to be the question facing Pennsylvania Republicans. 

State Sen. Doug Mastriano wants to borrow a page from Arizona, where he and two other lawmakers recently traveled to observe a partisan audit that one former federal election official called "a threat to the overall confidence of democracy."

Rep. Seth Grove, the Republican who controls the House committee through which all election legislation must pass, flatly rejected the idea.

"The PA House of Representatives will not be authorizing any further audits on any previous election," he tweeted Thursday. "We are focused on fixing our broken election law to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat."

Meanwhile, Grove's counterpart in the Senate, David Argall, told the Associated Press an audit of some sort is still on the table

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania's 67 counties are already required by state law to audit a set number of votes before they are certified. In addition, most counties participated in a risk-limiting review that confirmed President Joe Biden received more votes than Donald Trump.

County election and state officials, as well as Trump's own attorney general, have repeatedly refuted Trump's baseless claims of widespread fraud. 

Still, state Republican lawmakers have cast doubt on the integrity of the 2020 presidential contest, with many pointing to guidance from the Department of State and court rulings on mail ballots. Mastriano claimed "fraud is real and prevalent" after hosting a hearing in Gettysburg that gave Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani a venue to air the ex-president's unfounded assertions.

Grove was one of dozens of legislative Republicans who signed a letter urging Pennsylvania's congressional delegation to reject the state's electors for Biden. Argall, meanwhile, signed letters calling on the inspector general or attorney general to review election "irregularities."
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"In order to ... avoid false claims of racism against this Office and its Assistant District Attorneys, I took seriously that attorney’s stated desire not to accept plea offers."

—Allegheny County DA Stephen A. Zappala Jr. on reports he blocked plea deals to clients of a Black attorney who criticized his office
VACCINE UPDATE: Anheuser-Busch will buy every adult in America a beer if 70% are at least partially vaccinated by July 4. President Biden's related plan to enlist barbers as vaccine evangelists might be a tougher sell, according to those interviewed by TribLIVE. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING: Join Spotlight PA for a live interview and reader Q&A with Sen. David Argall at 1 p.m. June 18. RSVP for FREE »
This Bambi was spotted by PA Poster James N. on a recent trip to Moshannon State Forest in Elk County. Thanks for sharing, James. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
HISTORY OF VIOLENCE: Federal authorities say a Bucks County man accused of attacking a female police officer during the Jan. 6 Capitol siege has an extensive history of violence against women and should stay in jail. Ryan Samsel's attorneys are pushing for his release, saying he was beaten by jailers and isn't safe, per the York Daily Record.

'PANDEMIC ASTEROID': Wilkes-Barre's "hobbled" Main Street is the focus of a New York Times profile about the pandemic's impact on economic renewal efforts in similarly slowed down American cities. The tale is partly told through an interactive photo spread cataloging the "pandemic asteroid's" impact on four downtown blocks

PAIN POINTS: The sale of Philadelphia's Hahnemann University Hospital to a private-equity firm was the beginning of the end for the storied center serving mostly low-income communities. The New Yorker offers an in-depth look at the hospital's final chapter and a cautionary tale, one where the bad actors of private equity are more symptoms than disease.

NEWSHOUNDS: Since the Capitol siege, CBS21 News has issued dozens of interview requests to U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) to no avail. On Wednesday, a reporter approached Perry at a public event but says the congressman slipped away. In Pittsburgh, WTAE has led a similarly dogged pursuit of Republican U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler.

NOT ENOUGH: Medicaid ensures low-income residents can afford mental health care, but a lack of therapists in Pittsburgh approved to take it makes access a major issue, PublicSource reports. Therapists who want to take Medicaid said they've faced barriers to getting credentialed. 
PRIDE PRIORITIES: June is Pride Month, and advocates are continuing the push for long-sought protections in Pennsylvania law. They include the addition of constitutional safeguards, a statewide ban on conversion therapy for minors, and expanded hate crime laws, City & State reports.

GRADUATION DAY: Pennsylvania took to Twitter this week to congratulate graduates with a quote from none other than Dunder Mifflin Regional Manager Michael Scott — "May your hats fly as high as your dreams." What comes after Graduation Day? Probably Pretzel Day

MUSIC MAKERS: West Philadelphia's Porchfest is back and bigger than ever. Billy Penn reports the DIY music festival returns this weekend with its largest lineup to date. The musical action kicks off at noon on Saturday with more than 260 performers across more than 125 porches

FLOOD ZONE: The ruins of the failed dam that flooded Johnstown in 1889, killing 2,209 people, will be open for tours this summer. The National Park Service is offering daily hikes at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. beginning Saturday and lasting through Sept. 26, the Tribune-Democrat reports. 

MILD CAT: Turns out the "bobcat" that led to the shutdown of a West Scranton school this week was actually a house cat. WNEP reports the animal was captured and incorrectly identified as wild. In animal control's defense, it was a clouded jack cat, an exotic breed with a striking resemblance.
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.

Yesterday's answer: Intersectionality

Congrats to our daily winners: Lynne E., Don H., Elaine C., Mike B., Joel S., Karen W., David W., Carol D., and Ron P.
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