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Counties targeted as Trump ally begins ballot probe

Plus, animal advocates warn of dire funding shortage for Pa. dog law enforcement.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
July 8, 2021
Audit start, dog coin, police diversity, Cosby rule, school choice, job hunts, and Pennsylvania's best auctioneer explains it all. It's Thursday. This is PA Post.
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A Trump-aligned Republican state senator confirms he's building a "forensic audit" of Pennsylvania's 2020 election and 2021 primary in the style of Arizona's highly partisan and widely discredited ballot review. 

Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) has already sent letters to Philadelphia, York, and Tioga Counties asking for "information and materials" needed to conduct the audit and a "plan to comply" by the end of the month, the AP reports. (Here's a look at the letter York County received, via Capital-Star.) 

In a self-published op-ed, Mastriano said the effort isn't about overturning the results but rather restoring faith in the electoral system — an irony, critics note, given Mastriano's prominent role in undermining that trust in the eight months since November's presidential contest

Talking to right-wing network OAN on Wednesday, Mastriano said he's using Arizona's secretive, privately funded, and widely derided audit as a guide, days after briefing GOP colleagues on the logistics of a privately funded audit here

But Mastriano's Democratic counterpart on the state's Intergovernmental Operations Committee, the name of which appeared atop the letters, says the senator and the committee lack the standing to do any of this

THE CONTEXT: Mastriano, a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2022, will almost certainly have more support from his own party.

State Sen. David Argall, Republican chair of the Senate State Government Committee, which Dems acknowledge does have the authority to conduct such a probe, said he's "very supportive" of the overall effort.

Argall's endorsement came weeks after he signaled support in a live Q&A with Spotlight PA, which followed former President Donald Trump name-checking Argall on the national stage for not having done so sooner

Mastriano's audit is seeking a long list of items from targeted counties, including ballots cast (and those attempted) in the November election, logs from all computers and servers used to run the election, timelines of who accessed election equipment, and all equipment necessary to "simulate" and "recreate the precise scenarios of Election Day in 2020."

But such an effort, particularly if advanced by just one political party, will be sure to attract criticism and questions, including how much it would cost, who would pay for it, and why it would be any more trustworthy than the audits and litigation already completed.

Pennsylvania's Department of State, for one, is urging counties to "refuse to participate in any sham review of past elections" that would require them to "violate the trust of their voters and ignore their statutory duty to protect the chain of custody of their ballots and voting equipment."
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"They should have been a lot more supportive of [the bill], and now they're not going to get anything they want. And that’s on them."

—State Rep. Seth Grove (R., York) blaming counties while closing the door on election law changes until 2023 following a veto by Gov. Tom Wolf
VACCINE UPDATE: The WHO is warning against "vaccine nationalism" it blames for "shocking inequity" in the global supply chain as COVID-19's death toll tops four million worldwide. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Some local wildlife spotted at the Lumberjack Chainsaw Carvers event at Clearfield County Fairgrounds. Thanks, Don H.Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DOG LAWS: Pennsylvania lawmakers left for the summer without voting on raising dog license fees, something advocates say is needed to address dire funding shortfalls at the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. Without new revenue, advocates say the bureau will soon be unable to carry out basic functions, putting animals at risk, per Spotlight PA.

POLICE STATE: Pennsylvania's State Police force is more than 92% white and overwhelmingly male. The law enforcement agency will take steps to address gender parity under a $2.2 million legal settlement. But critics say its push on racial inclusion falls short amid a national reckoning around policing and people of color, The Inquirer reports.

LEGAL PROOF: Bill Cosby's release from prison has two state senators drafting legislation that would require all non-prosecution agreements to be in writing, the Capital-Star reports. Cosby was convicted of rape after a verbal non-prosecution agreement, which led to his release. The forthcoming legislation wants to tighten the rules, but details are scant.

DO-OVER: The deadline is nearing for Pennsylvania students who want to voluntarily repeat a grade because of pandemic-related learning losses, per WGAL. A law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf last month makes it possible. Interested families have until July 15 to fill out a form and submit it to their school district. That form can be downloaded here.

WORK SEARCH: Weekly work search requirements for Pennsylvanians receiving unemployment compensation will return July 18 after a pandemic hiatus, KDKA-TV reports. The rule will apply to almost all of the 750,000 Pennsylvanians currently receiving unemployment benefits and will need to be met in order to keep receiving payments.
TOLL TAKES: Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls will jump again on Jan. 2, this time by 5%. Officials say it's the first time in six years that fares have jumped by less than 6%, so there's that. The most common E-ZPass fare for a passenger vehicle will go from $1.60 to $1.70, the AP reports. 

SHOWTIME: Music will return to Pittsburgh's Rex Theater space, only under a different name. The live music venue, originally a vaudeville theater, closed at the height of the pandemic. It's since been sold to a new owner and will reopen as "Enclave" in September, per TribLIVE.

CAUCUS CALL: Attention former and current members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus: State archivists want to collect your stories "to get a larger historical perspective of the caucus' impact." The PLBC was launched in the '70s and afraid to meet in public at first.

FAST TALKER: Watch championship Pennsylvania auctioneer Brian Oberholtzer tell LancasterOnline about the secrets of the trade — "sixty" is easier to say quickly as "siggity," for example — and how Lancaster County remains a hotbed of world-class professional bid barkers

POP QUIZ: How many species of blueberry are in Pennsylvania? DCNR says four: highbush, lowbush, low-sweet, and sour-top. July is National Blueberry Month and peak picking season. Once you're stocked, try this recipe, via Lancaster Farming. If you're unstocked, consider this festival.
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: Rejuvenate

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Bob R., Neal W., Doris T., Mary Ellen T., Bill C., Irene R., Susan D., Elaine C., Beth T., Becky C., Meg M., Karen W., Mike B., Johnny C., Don H., Adrien M., Al M., Kim C., Lil N., Diane P., Damon D., George S., David I., Dianne K., Christine M., Dennis M., Cynthia P., kedwards, Jill A., Barbara F., Paul H., Tish M., Mary Kay M., Barbara M., Jackie S., Phil M., Joel S., Wendy A., John A., Kevin H., Carol D., Elizabeth W., Dorothy M., Jill K., Bruce B., Lex M., Craig W., Barbara O., Craig E., Patricia R., and Linda E.
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