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Election deniers running to make Pa. voting rules

Plus, the special election that could decide Pa. House control.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Wednesday, May 10, 2023
In today's edition: On the ballot, on the line, special prosecutor, new era?, 'dirty dozen,' jail death, and a Pennsylvania opus. Thanks for checking in.

Dozens of people running for county commissioner in Pennsylvania this year have expressed skepticism about the outcome of the 2020 election or directly said it was stolen from Donald Trump, claimed that the outcome was affected by fraud, or otherwise said there was a conspiracy to manipulate elections.

That includes Zach Scherer, a GOP candidate for Butler County Commissioner who has repeated debunked election claims online, organized a group that cited conspiracy theories in pushing for local 2020 investigations, and who now says he's running to bring "election integrity to Butler County."

If voted in, Scherer would assume a role that in many parts of the state oversees critical aspects of how elections are run, including the locations of voting precincts, the setting of election budgets, the hiring of election directors, and the local rules around casting a mail ballot.

Read the full report from Spotlight PA and Votebeat: Candidates running for key Pa. election posts wrongly believe 2020 presidential race was stolen.

THE CONTEXT: The outlets searched over 400 commissioner candidates' social media posts, campaign materials, and public statements for election denialism and sent a two-question survey to as many as possible.

Twenty-six had directly said the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Nineteen expressed skepticism about the integrity of elections.

These 45 candidates are all Republicans, and in some cases they're getting key party endorsements and have a strong shot at winning.

Officials have voiced concerns about election deniers winning county commissioner seats, saying it could undermine the commonwealth's entire system, while a Brennan Center for Justice report warned of election deniers in county positions refusing to certify future elections.


"We want [police] to get their training but it's not a comforting sound — it's what a mass shooting would sound like. We view this as a public health issue."

Stephanie Walsh of a community council group in Pittsburgh's Highland Park neighborhood where a firing range used by police is drawing pushback
» How to vote, where to vote, and everything else you need to know

» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» How to request, fill out, and return your mail ballot

» How to vote, find your polling place, understand mail ballots

» A guide to vetting candidates for school board, judge, and more

» A guide to the Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» High court candidates with party backing show fundraising edge
Support Spotlight PA's trusted, nonpartisan election reporting.
» Los candidatos a la Corte de la Commonwealth y Cortes Superiores

» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado

» Una guía completa para el día de las elecciones primarias de Pa.

» Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos a la junta escolar

» Todo lo que necesitas saber para votar por correo

Apoye ahora la cobertura electoral de servicio público de Spotlight PA.

» POLICING VS TREATMENT: Join us Thursday, May 25 at 6 pm ET for a free panel on how Pa. wants to spend a $1B opioid settlement, the policing versus treatment debate, and how Pennsylvania's spending plans compare to other states'. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org

A view toward the distant Allegheny Front, from Blue Knob State Park near Claysburg, via Don H. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A person standing near the edge of an expansive natural overlook.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.HOUSE CONTROL: Next week's primary election will coincide with a special election in Delaware County for control of the state House. Set up by former Democratic state Rep. Mike Zabel's resignation, the contest will determine whether Democrats maintain their one-seat grip on the lower chamber or lose it. The AP reports abortion and the handling of misconduct complaints against Zabel are focal points. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SEPTA COP: The Pennsylvania Senate has advanced a bill that would appoint a special prosecutor for crimes committed on public transportation in Philadelphia, The Tribune reports. The ACLU called the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R., Cambria), a brazen and unconstitutional "attempt to undermine the authority" of progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.NEXT PHASE: Could the looming closure of Pennsylvania's largest coal-fired power plant usher in Pennsylvania's renewable energy era? Next month will be the last for Indiana County's Homer City Generating Station, and Capital & Main reports "a solar project is already 'in wait for the area,'" and federal funds are available to help communities with retired coal plants pivot to new forms of power generation.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.'DIRTY DOZEN': A report released by an environmental group names Pennsylvania’s top emitters of climate-impacting greenhouse gases. Eleven are power plants. U.S. Steel's Edgar Thomson plant in Braddock is the only exception. The PennEnvironment and Frontier Group report used federal data to compile the list and pegs Armstrong County's Keystone Generating Station as the state's "dirtiest."

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.IN CUSTODY: A 42-year-old man is the latest to die in Allegheny County Jail custody after he was found unresponsive there on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (PINJ) reports. Pinpointing the causes of such deaths is difficult, as Allegheny and Philadelphia are the only counties in Pennsylvania where autopsy reports are not made public. PINJ goes to court today to change that.

NEW UNION: Resident and fellow physicians at Philadelphia's Penn Medicine have voted to unionize for better working conditions and pay, amid complaints of infested call rooms and vanishing benefits.

GRAVE SAVES: Midland Cemetery near Steelton is home to the graves of Black Civil War veterans. Now, The Burg reports, it's been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, a possible added layer of security.

ENDANGERED: The National Trust for Historic Preservation has two Philadelphia spots on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023: The Henry Ossawa Tanner House and Chinatown.

REHAB STINT: Yankees pitcher Luis Severino wasn't thrilled about his rehab assignment in Scranton this week, saying, "there's not much to do there." Locals were happy to suggest a few things.

PLAY NEXT: The internet has rediscovered The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns, and that means it's time for a semiregular PA Post reminder that this double album about Pennsylvania exists.

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: Shambolic

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Barbara F., Dan A., Bob C., Susan N.-Z., Jon W., Don H., Susan R., Beth T., Craig E., James B., Dianne K., Dennis M., Nancy S., Bill S., Keith W., Kim C., Stanley J., Tom M., Kimberly D., and William Z.
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