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Infighting consumes Pa. GOP’s election audit push

Plus, eviction ban survives one legal challenge, faces another.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 23, 2021
Audit 'betrayal,' map making, eviction freeze, last exit, overtime pay, health hurdles, and the stop-sign hero we need. It's Monday, welcome to PA Post.
The driving force behind a partisan, Trump-backed push to audit Pennsylvania's recent elections says his own party has stonewalled the effort — pulling him off the job, reassigning his staff, and canceling a key meeting.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) blamed Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre) and others in GOP leadership for the "betrayal," which Mastriano said included the cancelation of a committee meeting that could have produced subpoenas for relevant election materials.

According to the Associated Press, Corman said it came down to Mastriano's performance, telling former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in an interview: "To me, [Mastriano's] not really interested in results, he's interested in grandstanding, and this is too important of an issue."

Corman said he's still behind the audit and has asked state Sen. Cris Dush (R., Jefferson) to take the helm. The details aren't finalized, but Corman did not rule out subpoenas to counties or an audit like the secretive and widely criticized one launched by state senators in Arizona.

A report on the findings of that third-party Arizona audit is due today.

THE CONTEXT: Dush traveled with Mastriano to Arizona in June to cheer on the contested audit there in a trip paid for by an audit funder and staffer with the far-right One America News Network.

(Soon after returning to Pennsylvania, Dush told Fox43 the trip was paid for by a nonprofit, the name of which he couldn't recall.)

But Mastriano remained the public face of the audit push, which drew stark legal warnings from state and federal officials, saw threats made against local leaders, deadlines blown, and pressure applied by former President Donald Trump.

There is no proof of widespread election fraud in Pennsylvania during the 2020 election. A pilot audit conducted by the state confirmed the right winner was named but didn't reveal much more. As required by law, counties also conduct post-election audits on select samples of ballots.

"And if the jail doesn't have the capacity to provide adequate nutrition to its population, they need new resources. They need to pay people to serve the food instead of taking advantage of an unpaid workforce."

—Allegheny County Council member Bethany Hallam on allegations of coronavirus-related food shortages at the Allegheny County Jail
COVID-19 UPDATE: A mask mandate is back for state employees and contractors, effective today; the FDA is aiming to fully authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine this week; more than 90% of Pennsylvanians live in high transmission areas; and experts are asking you not to take horse medicine, despite what you may have seen on television. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CLIMBING COVID: Join us Wednesday at noon via Zoom for a free reader Q&A on what we know about Pennsylvania's response to the surge in COVID-19 cases and what you need to know going into the fall. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
Lorraine Vullo's The Homestead Labyrinth memorializes those who died on the site during the 1892 Battle of Homestead. This photo was taken on my family's recent visit. Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
NEW MAPS: The redrawing of Pennsylvania's political maps — aka redistricting — will help decide the power balance in Washington and Harrisburg for years to come, and you can get involved in the process. Spotlight PA has tips for making sure your voice is heard, from public hearings to online feedback tools to drawing your very own maps

FREEZE CASE: A federal eviction ban remains in place, at least for now, after a federal appeals court late last week rejected a challenge brought by property owners and realtors, Politico reports. The challenge is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a frosty reception is expected. Tenants across Pennsylvania are at risk of losing their homes.

EXIT SIGNS: One-hundred-and-fifty U.S. service members from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware died in Afghanistan during the 20-year war there. The Inquirer reports this month's U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover has prompted timeless questions to resurface for some of their surviving family members.

OVERTIME: Gov. Tom Wolf let Republican lawmakers kill a plan to expand overtime pay protections to 190,000 salary earners in Pennsylvania in exchange for the GOP-led legislature agreeing to boost funding for the state's poorest schools in this year's budget. WESA wondered why more workers weren't angry and found many didn't know.

HOME HEALTH: There's a shortage of nurses available to care for medically complex children at their homes in Pennsylvania, WLVR reports, and Medicaid reimbursement rates aren't helping. While officials look for ways to fill the gaps, parents fend for themselves.
HEAT BREAKS: After a 1993 heatwave killed 118 people, Philadelphia made changes to better protect vulnerable residents against heat-related illness and death. The Washington Post says those changes are still working today and could be a model for other U.S. cities as climate change worsens.

'LITTLE MAN': Skittles, peanut butter tortillas, and a hiker named "Sugar Man" helped five-year-old Harvey Sutton become one of the youngest people to ever conquer the iconic Appalachian Trail. Per the AP, "Sugar Man" helped Harvey, aka "Little Man," complete the leg from Pennsylvania to Maine.

STILL STANDING: Meet "Stoppy," a very resilient stop sign whose many scrapes with vehicles at a Cheltenham shopping center have inspired a loyal following, a Facebook page, and a theme song: "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba ("I get knocked down, but I get up again"), per The Inquirer. 

GOOD GAME: Team Pennsylvania was knocked out of the Little League World Series this weekend in a 5-3 second-round loss (watch the recap here). But the Oaks team, the first to represent Pennsylvania and the region in Williamsport since 2015, got lots of hat tips, including from the Phillies.

STACK'D: In one weekend, WHYY reporter Ryan Briggs found former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack's "sizzle reel" on YouTube and a 2019 low-budget, pro-small-government World War II flick called "Operation Resist" with a bit part played by none other than state Sen. Doug Mastriano
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: Magnanimous

Congrats to our weekly winner: Wendy A.

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan F., Jessica K., Michelle T., Alan V., Neal W., Susan N., Kevin M., Becky C., Mike B., Brian B., Marty M., Bruce T., Diane P., George S., Beth T., James B., Dennis M., Don H., Doris T., Bill C., Kim C., Damon D., Craig W., Jill A., Brandie K., Irene R., Christine M., Susan D., David W., Craig E., Karen W., Daniel M., Rick D., Anne R., Bill S., Carol D., Elizabeth W., Elaine C., Suzanne S., John H., Judith D., John P., and Lex M.
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