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Outdated law led to baseless recount petitions

Plus, how a local government nearly collapsed after hiring Tamir Rice’s killer.


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Friday, December 30, 2022
Outdated law, Tioga takeaways, Mastriano transcript, Krasner trial, AG candidate, records order, and the things towns drop on Dec. 31. It's Friday. 
🎉 PROGRAMMING NOTE: We're off Monday but we'll be back in your inboxes first thing Tuesday. See you in 2023!

Good-government advocates and voting experts say Pennsylvania should change a recount law that was weaponized by activists and delayed the state’s certification by several weeks.

A Votebeat and Spotlight PA review of historical legislative records and news articles found that the 1927 provision has not been substantially updated in the near-century since its passage, and was designed to combat a type of fraud now easily detected by modern improvements to election administration.

The recount petition fee, for example, has never been updated from the $50 amount set in 1927. Adjusted for inflation, the modern equivalent is $860.

Read Votebeat and Spotlight PA's full report: Century-old law let voters file baseless recount petitions and delay Pa.’s election certification.

THE CONTEXT: The provision was championed by the newly elected Republican Gov. John Fisher as part of a package of election reform proposals Fisher had offered during his 1926 campaign.

He was attempting to push back against what he saw as the corruption of elections by machine politics.

But while American cities including Philadelphia "had a problem with voter fraud a long time ago," "there are safeguards now that exist that didn’t then,” said Al Schmidt, president of the Committee of Seventy.


"... I want to be sure that we always look in our hearts, that at the core of all this is the memory of every victim."

—Carole Zawatsky, CEO of the nonprofit component of Tree of Life, on plans to move forward while remembering the synagogue's tragic past
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A Spotlight PA staffer snapped this photo while moving through 30th Street Station. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.TIOGA TAKEAWAYS: Tioga made headlines in early July and became known as the small town in Pennsylvania that hired the police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The attention on Tioga quickly faded, but Spotlight PA reporter Mix Xian's work had just begun

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.J6 TRANSCRIPT: The congressional committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol has withdrawn its subpoena to far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) and released a transcript of its brief deposition with him, The Inquirer reports. Mastriano did not answer questions during a virtual interview with the committee in August.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.BRANCH CLASH: Commonwealth Court judges heard arguments Thursday in a suit brought by Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner seeking to shut down an impeachment drive against him. One judge said allowing the impeachment to move forward could set a "terrible precedent," per the AP, while another worried about intervening in legislative business. 

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.READY TO RUN? Eugene DePasquale, the state's former auditor general, is considering running for attorney general next year, WESA reports. Current AG Josh Shapiro will become governor next month and is expected to appoint a top deputy to fill the vacancy

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.RECORDS ORDER: The Office of Open Records has ordered the Wolf administration to release records related to two rejected public bids for the Allentown State Hospital property. The Morning Call reports the admin is instead selling the property directly to a development company run by a close friend of a former state senator. 

DROP IT: It's almost time for Pennsylvania to drop a pickle, strawberry, wrench, peep, bologna, mushroom, and pants to ring in the new year.

ANNUAL REMINDER: It's my duty to remind you to eat pork and sauerkraut (or a veggie option) on New Year's Day for good luck. 

ICYMI: I almost let 2022 end without highlighting one of my favorite (and loudest!) December traditions: the York Factory Whistle Christmas concert.

PROTEIN PROJECT: Penn physicians are taking part in an international trial that aims to rid the brain of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s

COMING SOON(ISH): Amtrak will debut fancy, new trains along routes including the Keystone and Pennsylvanian ... in 2026.

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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Gainlessness or slanginesses

Congrats to our daily winners: Jon W., Vicki U., Wendy A., Starr B., Dianne K., Don H., Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., Barbara F., Craig W., Bill S., and Jane R. 
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