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Mail-voting law upheld but more challenges loom

Plus, PSU shuns key questions about sexual extortion case.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 3, 2022
Election ruling, pressing PSU, PSERS update, liquor lotto, ballot policy, record purge, and General Assembly generations. Hi! It's Wednesday!

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has upheld the state's expanded mail-voting law months before November's pivotal midterms. 

The 5-2 decision released Tuesday rejects the GOP argument that the legislature did not have the power under the state constitution to allow Pennsylvanians to vote by mail without an excuse. 

"We find no restriction in our Constitution on the General Assembly's ability to create universal mail-in voting," the majority opinion reads.

Spotlight PA explains the decision and the challenges still looming.

THE CONTEXT: The law, Act 77, was adopted in 2019 with bipartisan support but drew challenges from Republican lawmakers after former President Donald Trump blamed mail voting for his 2020 election loss here.

Tuesday's ruling upholding the constitutionality of Act 77 follows a lower appellate court decision that reached the opposite conclusion.

It also doesn't mean the end of the uncertainty around mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, with more challenges on the horizon.

Spotlight PA reports that state Rep. Tim Bonner (R., Mercer), one of the legislative plaintiffs challenging the law, said Tuesday that they plan to appeal their case to the more conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

Bonner also pointed to a separate, ongoing case that seeks to toss Act 77 over a legal technicality known as a non-severability clause.


"We have always been proud to support them as a local micromobility operator and we’re disappointed to see them shut down."

—Maria Montaño, press secretary to Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, on moped-sharing company Scoobi shutting down operations in the city

» TALK OF THE TOWN: On Friday, August 12 at 6 p.m. ET, meet our new State College regional bureau team, get an inside look at what we’re investigating, and tell us how we can better connect with you. RSVP here. Tell us what you want to know about the new bureau at events@spotlightpa.org

The now-retired Wildcat coaster at Hersheypark, via @yatskoSend us your photos, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
MISSING PIECES: After Penn State student athletes were allegedly extorted into taking and sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves and others, the university is refusing to answer specific questions about how it handled the situation, Spotlight PA's State College Bureau reports. This includes questions about how many students were involved and when campus police were brought in.

PSERS PROBE: The U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly closed its investigation into Pennsylvania's $76 billion teachers' pension fund without charges, per the Capital-Star. Spotlight PA previously reported that the feds were looking into inaccurately reported investment returns and the fund's real estate purchases in Harrisburg. A Securities and Exchange Commission probe of the fund is ongoing.

INSIDE DEAL: Pennsylvania's State Ethics Commission says a Liquor Control Board member and four top-level employees of the agency did not violate ethics law when they bought high-end bourbon lottery leftovers before the public knew there were still bottles up for grabs, PennLive reports. Two of the staffers were dinged for failing to report sources of income and a gift on financial interest forms.

BOXED OUT: Republican Luzerne County Councilman Stephen Urban wants to bar county resources for mail-ballot drop boxes unless the boxes are "explicitly written into" state election law. The state Supreme Court okayed drop boxes in 2020, but GOP state lawmakers argue it shouldn't have. The chair of Luzerne County's election board questions the legality of Urban's plan, the Times-Leader reports.

RECORD SEARCH: Lackawanna County's district attorney says a record of Democratic Commissioner Debi Domenick's one-time incarceration at the county's jail was deleted under "suspicious circumstances," per WBRE/WYOU. Domenick has been separately accused of improperly obtaining a key that led to the prison's administrative offices, but an investigation into the matter was inconclusive.

WATER WATCHERS: PublicSource traveled to Blacklick Creek, an orange-tinged tributary of the Conemaugh River near Homer City, with a question: "Can a coal-killed waterway live again?"

GUILTY VERDICT: Greensburg-area dentist Lawrence "Larry" Rudolph was convicted by a Denver jury this week for murder and mail fraud in connection with the 2016 death of his wife on an African safari.

ACTING MAYOR: Harrisburg Police Commissioner Thomas Carter is acting mayor of the city until Aug. 16 as Mayor Wanda Williams recovers from a "minor medical procedure," ABC27 reports. 

BOOMER TIMES: Roughly 60% of Pennsylvania's population is between 18 and 64 years old. How does the state legislature compare? City & State has a political breakdown "for the ages."

PEEL FEEL: Newer Pennsylvania license plates have a peeling problem. If the paint is peeling off your license plate, WGAL has a guide to getting it replaced: It takes about two weeks and costs nothing.

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.

*This week's theme: Handwriting

Yesterday's answer: Calligraphy or graphically 

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., David S., Jessica K., Michelle T., Lori M.-D., Patricia M., Susan N.-Z., Joel S., Cindy M., Mark O., Ted W., Tara M., Barbara F., Sheila F., Susan D., Irene R., Nancy S., Vicki U., Steve D., Karen W., Judith D., Eddy Z., Jon W., Wendy A., Jude M., Jane R., Stephen G., George S., Kim C., Tish M., John W., Lynne E., Brandie K., Rebecca M., Marsha B., Bette G., Ronnee G., Suzanne O., Beth T., Renee Z., Jodi R., Warren D., Becca S., Starr B., Don H., Kathy O., Kimberly D., Elaine C., Ed M., Rosa E., Marty M., Kevin M., Bruce B., Daniel M., Patricia R., Stanley J., Johnny C., Briann M., Dianne K., Mike B., George S., Fred H., Bill S., Lee S., David W., Carol C., Sharon P., Lewis M., Chuck M., Carol H.-P., Lex M., Alissa H., Margaret Mary H., Jane W., Edward F., Jeri F., John P., and Myles M.
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