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Full guide to GOP’s election overhaul proposal


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 11, 2021
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After months of build-up, Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers have unveiled their first proposal for overhauling the state’s election system, one with major implications for voter identification, in-person early voting, and mail ballots.

According to Spotlight PA and The Inquirer, state Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), chair of the House State Government Committee and House Republicans' point person for voting legislation, said the proposal was informed by months of oversight hearings launched in the wake of November's contentious presidential election. 

"This responsible bill includes all aspects of issues brought before the committee and will propel Pennsylvania's election into the 21st century, all while fixing fatal flaws and election security issues," Grove said in a statement. 

THE CONTEXT: So what exactly is in the new proposal — dubbed the "Voting Rights Protection Act" by its Republican authors?

Standout provisions include:

  • Requiring every voter to show ID at the polls (something Pennsylvania only requires for first-time voters now) 
  • A pre-canvassing rule, sought by election officials, that would allow counties a five-day head start on mail ballot processing
  • Five days of in-person early voting, beginning after the 2024 presidential election
  • Mail ballot drop boxes for seven days before Election Day
  • Eliminating the state's permanent mail-in voting list
  • Moving up the voter registration deadline from 15 days before Election Day to 30
  • Moving up the deadline for requesting mail ballots from seven days before Election Day to 15
  • Allowing voters to fix mail ballots with missing signatures
  • Establishing a Bureau of Election Audits under the state attorney general’s office
  • Allowing counties to open satellite election offices (a bone of contention in 2020)
  • Requiring signature verification for mail ballots (another 2020 sticking point)
  • And banning counties from accepting private donations for election administration (like these from a Mark Zuckerberg-backed nonprofit)
The legislation is sure to draw intense scrutiny and will likely face steep obstacles as Republican leaders, who control both chambers of the state legislature, try to keep their party unified while also winning the approval of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf — a requirement for such legislation. 
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"I thought it would be coming some day. I didn’t expect it to come so quickly."

—Cheswick Councilman Michael Girardi on the closure of Allegheny County's last coal-fired power plant, the same linked to air quality issues

VACCINE UPDATE: Pennsylvania's state Senate passed a GOP-penned bill that would preemptively ban vaccine passports here, bar publicly funded colleges and universities from requiring vaccinations, and prevent the secretary of health from requiring masks, social distancing, or business closures, per WTAE. Wolf says he'll veto it if it reaches his desk. 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 »
A green heron and turtle get some sun at Beaver Run Pond in the Quehanna Wild Area. Thanks, @pabucketlist, for tagging us. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
BITTERSWEET: With more than $17 billion in assets, the Milton Hershey School is richer than Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh combined, spending big to educate and house some 2,100 low-income and at-risk children. But those investments come with serious caveats, leaving some students behind and others mired in debt, Spotlight PA, The Inquirer, and ProPublica found.

END RUN: The Pennsylvania legislature voted this week to immediately end Gov. Tom Wolf's coronavirus disaster declaration while allowing certain waivers to remain in place, Spotlight PA reports. Wolf does not have the power to veto the resolution because of two constitutional amendments approved by primary voters in May.

DISSIDENT BLOC: Six trustees for Pennsylvania's embattled, $64 billion public school employee pension fund have called for the full 15-member board to vote to fire the fund's chief executive and top investment officer amid an ongoing FBI investigation and avalanche of management mistakes. Spotlight PA and The Inquirer report the trustees want both men fired and an interim chief for investments appointed.
BAN DEMANDS: Activists marched through the Capitol this week, momentarily disrupting the Senate’s voting session, to demand lawmakers ban public officials from accepting gifts from special interests and others trying to influence public policy, per Spotlight PA. "This is not a fringe issue, this is not a lefty, radical issue," one demonstrator explained. "This is talking about getting money out of politics."

TECH TROUBLE: State officials say they're working on fixes for a glitchy rollout of a new unemployment computer system. In the meantime, acting Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier said a new version of the Pennsylvania Teleclaims system is up, allowing claimants to file by phone. The Capital-Star reports a SurveyMonkey poll is also being used to identify issues there in real-time.
'SHE DOCTORS': Undark Magazine revisits the so-called "She Doctor Panic" that swept a Philadelphia hospital when female med students integrated a clinical medicine lecture in the mid-19th century. The magazine says the "radical mixing of the sexes" led to an uproar among the men.

JUNETEENTH MENU: Juneteenth, an annual celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S., is one week away. The Inquirer has recipes for red-colored dishes that remain a fixture at related picnics and family gatherings, a nod to cultural traditions in places like Benin, Uganda, and Congo.

RING OF FIRE: If you, like me, missed the "Ring of Fire" partial eclipse yesterday, don't worry. Lucky for us, lots of talented photographers didn't. They captured vivid images like these in Bucks County, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and beyond.

FUNGUS FINDS: Morels are gourmet mushrooms native to the Appalachian mountains, and they're sought out in ritualized hunts each spring. Grace Arnold recalls her family's forages in an essay for 100 Days in Appalachia. "Maybe it was just a morel, but to me, it was a symbol of a lot more."

BIKE FAM: Can snakes ride bicycles? Apparently, yes. Billy Penn shared a photo on Twitter of a man pedaling an Indego bike in West Philly with a lengthy snake draped around his shoulders. So, yes, it can be done. But maybe the better question is "should it?"
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: Judicious

Congrats to our daily winners: Bob R., Irene R., Mike B., Craig W., Kathy B., Becky C., William P., Susan D., Michelle T., Joel S., Patricia M., Neal W., Myles M., David I., Christine M., Wendy A., Kim C., Bill C., Joyce O., Elaine C., Kevin H., Gregory G., Barbara F., Don H., Barbara O., Chris M., Eileen B., Bruce T., Mary Kay M., Craig E., Beth T., Mary Ellen T., Jamie R., Elizabeth W., Karen W., Parker B., Deborah S., James B., Christine M., Dennis M., Bette G., Pat M., Kenneth J., Al M., Patricia R., Deb N., Diane P., Connie K., Adrien M., Heidi B., Kevin M., George S., Daniel M., Steve D., Brian B., Doris B., Kate P., Eddy Z., Claire K., Susan R., Tish M., Jackie S., Bruce B., Jill A., Brandie K., Barbara A., Scott R., Catherine J., Georgann J., Suzanne S., Damon D., Fred O., Dianne K., Carol D., Gwen B., Ken S., David S., Meg M., Paul H., Joan S., Nichole H., Mark C., John A., Theodore W., Rick D., Johnny C., Jeff M., Karen M., Jennifer R., George W., David W., John H., Sherri A., Ann and John P., Parker B., Alice B., and Cathy S.
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