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Elon's Twitter is worrying Pa. election messengers

Plus, the climate threat to Pa.'s state symbols.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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🗳️ PRIMARY DEADLINE: Today is the last day to request a mail ballot for the May 16 primary. Request yours here. Then read Spotlight PA's complete guide to filling out and returning your mail ballot.
In today's edition: Unverified, political training, SWAT mistrial, threatened symbols, open disclosures, special money, and higher ed. marks.

The AP reports that Twitter's overhaul of its verification system has made it harder to distinguish accounts belonging to actual election officials in Pennsylvania from random accounts with similar names.

Philadelphia's official @PhillyVotes account has applied for the gray Twitter checkmark given to official government accounts, but it still hadn't heard back with next week's pivotal primary rapidly approaching.

In Allegheny County, election officials opted to pay for Twitter Blue to be able to continue advertising on the platform — spokesperson Amie Downs said the county posts ads for elections and jobs — but anyone can buy a blue checkmark now, meaning the symbol is little safeguard.

Read the AP's full report: New Twitter rules expose election offices to spoof accounts in Pennsylvania and beyond.

THE CONTEXT: Jill Greene, voting and elections manager for the good-government group Common Cause Pennsylvania, said: "Because Twitter is dropping the ball on verification, the burden will fall on voters to double check that the information they are consuming and sharing is legitimate."

Pennsylvania's Department of State, which oversees elections and broad portions of statewide election infrastructure, has received a gray checkmark labeling its Twitter account a verified government account.

But Nick Custodio, spokesperson for Philadelphia City Commissioners, the board in charge of elections in the city and the owner of the @PhillyVotes handle, told the AP that if their account remains unverified, it will be easier to impersonate and harder to trust heading into Election Day.


"As [our rector, Father David Zwifka] says, his job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Jennifer Hackett at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Lebanon, one of two local churches working to erase $1 million in medical debt for residents
» 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

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary BY TODAY
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.
The view from the Duke Street Bridge overlooking the Swatara Creek in Dauphin County, via Robert N. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A rainbow over trees and a creek.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.TRAINING CAMP: Progressive groups and the Latino Victory Project are launching a two-day "training camp" program in Pennsylvania and other states ahead of the 2024 election. The goal? Teaching prospective Latino candidates the basics of running a successful political campaign. In Pennsylvania, Latino candidates seeking state office say they need more party support and financial backing.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.HUNG JURY: The trial of a former Philadelphia SWAT officer seen pepper-spraying protesters at point-blank range during George Floyd-inspired protests in June of 2020 has ended in a mistrial. Richard Nicoletti, 37, was charged with simple assault and reckless endangerment, but the jury could not reach a verdict after days of deliberations. It's unclear if prosecutors will try again.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.STATE SYMBOLS: Experts say climate change is fueling the growth of invasive species and threatening Pennsylvania state symbols — namely its state tree, bird, and fish — in the process, StateImpact reports. Environmental workers are looking to reverse the impacts the invasives are having on the hemlock tree, brook trout, and ruffed grouse, and they're finding an array of ripple effects as they do.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.OUTSIDE MONEY: While Philly's mayoral race breaks spending records, the race for the top office in Pennsylvania's second-largest county is drawing large sums too. WESA reports it's the money being spent on the Allegheny County executive race by outside groups that's drawing controversy and fueling political attacks. Democrat John Weinstein has provided his disclosures, days past Friday's deadline.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CASH PUSH: Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso reports that since May 4, Democratic aligned donors (unions, environmental groups, and the state party) have sent an additional $132,000 to Democrat Heather Boyd in a Delaware County special election with state House control on the line, bringing the one-week total to $163,000. Republicans, meanwhile, have sent Boyd's opponent, Katie Ford, $35,099 since May 2.

'TEXT TO PAY': City & State's Justin Sweitzer reports Harrisburg is rolling out a "text to pay" option for parking meters. Text 30202, enter a zone number, and follow the text prompts. Other payment options will remain.

LOW MARKS: Pennsylvania is at the bottom of U.S. News and World Report's list of the best states to attend college in. The ranking looked at tuition rates, share of student debt, graduation rates, and more.

SAVE THE DATE: Richard Rothstein is coming to Harrisburg's Midtown Scholar Bookstore on June 3 to discuss his new book, Just Action: How to Challenge Segregation Enacted Under the Color of Law

KENNEY'S PICK: Current Philly Mayor Jim Kenney says he voted for Cherelle Parker in the hyper-competitive race to replace him, but The Inquirer (paywall) says it's not an endorsement and he criticized former mayors for theirs.

CAST VOTES: What do you get when you cross Philly's high-stakes race for mayor with a beloved ABC sitcom about the city's schools? This Twitter thread on how Abbott Elementary characters would vote.

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: Quotidian

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Renee Z., Judy K., Dan A., Tracy S., Mark C., James L., Lynne E., Mike B., Theresa T., Jane R., Hugh M., Mark O., Judith D., Justin Lee C., Bob C., Susan D., Julie K., Starr B., Don H., Eddy Z., Jon W., Jim A., Kimberly D., Susan R., Elaine C., Bruce B., Mary Jo J., Dana D., Gina L., Kim C., Cameron T., Dennis M., Ada M., John A., Mary S., Stanley J., Michelle T., Ted B., Beth T., Susan N.-Z., Kevin M., Stacy S., Bill S., Danielle S., Dianne K., Doug W., James B., Fred O., Richard A., John P., Wendy A., William Z., Mike Z., Heather B., Vicki U., David W., Tom M., and Nancy S.,
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