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Ballot errors rise as election officials quit

Plus, Pennsylvania's gas tax will fall in 2024.

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Thursday, December 21, 2023
In today's edition: Election errors, population shrink, fracking returns, Perry's messages, inconsistent outcomes, and the falling gas tax. Happy Thursday.
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On or before Election Day this November, 12 Pennsylvania counties reported making 16 errors, more than double the number from any other election since 2019.

Election experts, as well as the Department of State, agree the increase is linked to turnover and loss of experience at local election offices.

Read the complete report from Votebeat and Spotlight PA: Administrative election errors rise as Pa. counties struggle to keep voting officials.

THE CONTEXT: Until this year, eight errors reported during the 2021 municipal election were the high-water mark for errors in a Pennsylvania election, according to the data.

County errors this November included:

  • instructions to vote for the wrong number of candidates;
  • candidates or races left off the ballot;
  • improper ballot return instructions;
  • duplicate ballots sent to the same voter.
The errors have the potential to affect voters’ trust in elections ahead of what is expected to be a highly contentious presidential election.
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"Latinos are being pretty clear in their policy priorities, much of which can be summed up around their concerns around cost of living."

—Rafael Collazo, political director of UnidosUS, on the results of a survey of Latino voters in Pennsylvania

The Huntsdale State Fish Hatchery in Cumberland County, via your PA Post writer. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.BALLOT BAN: Colorado’s Supreme Court has barred former President Donald Trump from appearing on the state’s primary ballot, and tThe Inquirer reports such a ruling could be repeated elsewhere, including in Pennsylvania. A previous legal challenge was thrown out in the commonwealth over a technicality, but the Colorado decision could pave the way for a new lawsuit here. The Trump campaign is vowing to appeal and the ultimate decision is likely to be made by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.POPULATION SHRINK: Pennsylvania is one of eight states that lost population in 2023, per the Census Bureau, losing 10,400 people, the Center Square reports. The commonwealth's neighboring states, including New Jersey and Ohio, gained population, while West Virginia also shrunk. Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
'GASLAND': The state will allow Coterra Energy Inc. to drill gas wells in Dimock Township, whose residents were featured in the 2010 documentary Gasland complaining of fracking-related health issues, the Associated Press reports. Coterra was banned from drilling in the township for a dozen years because it polluted the local water supply. 

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.PERRY'S MESSAGES: U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) must turn over more than 1,600 communications to federal prosecutors as part of a probe into former President Donald Trump and his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, CNN reports. Some of the messages show Perry's attempts “to work with or influence members of the Executive Branch.” 

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.INCONSISTENT OUTCOMES: A new report from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics warns of inconsistent outcomes and practices when social service workers evaluate medical information when probing reports of child abuse, WESA reports. The recommendations include adding a nurse to local social service agencies.
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CENTRE DOCUMENTERS: The News Lab at Penn State and Spotlight PA have partnered to launch Centre Documenters, whose participants take notes on public meetings in Benner, College, Gregg, Halfmoon, Snow Shoe, and Spring townships and make them available to anyone who wants them. Learn more about signing up.

FALLING TAX: Pennsylvania's gas tax will fall from 61.1 cents per gallon to 57.6 cents a gallon on Jan. 1, because of declining wholesale prices.

MOONSHOT: Pittsburgh's Astrobotic will launch its Peregrine lunar lander on Jan. 8. Per TribLIVE: "If successful, Astrobotic will become the first commercial company to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface."

CHICK-LESS: There will be no chickens and ducks at the Farm Show for the second year in a row, to prevent the spread of avian flu.

BIRD BFF: Bill Hartline of Lycoming County was surprised when a wild ruffed grouse formed a deep attachment to him — the bird throws himself under cars to prevent Hartline from leaving. Researchers at Penn State may soon be able to explain this weird relationship, according to the New York Times.
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