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Exodus of election officials could spell trouble

Plus, the mail ballot 'missing date' case.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Today: With experience, presidential polling, mail ballot appeal, cruel and unusual, medically assisted death, and a rare find at Goodwill.

Pennsylvania is short on election officials in a crucial election year, upping the risk of confusion, disenfranchisement, and disinformation.

In total, 58 county officials who served during the November 2019 election have left, taking hundreds of years of combined experience with them. 

“I think the loss of experienced election directors at the county level is one of the biggest dangers we face,” Secretary of State Al Schmidt said recently, noting high turnover also makes mistakes more likely. 

Spotlight PA and Votebeat on the origins of the exodus: 

The combination of new voting machines in 2019 and the introduction of no-excuse mail-in voting already presented a challenging environment for the 2020 presidential election, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, “the wheels started falling off the bus.” Then allies and followers of Donald Trump started questioning the outcome and election administration process itself.

Read our full coverage: A deficit of experienced voting officials could mean trouble for Pa.’s 2024 election.


"We've already talked about it, and I don't think the votes are there in the Senate. We don't need another sin tax." 
—State Sen. Patrick Stefano (R., Fayette) on Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's push to legalize and tax recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania
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HOME IMPROVEMENTS: Join Spotlight PA Thursday, Feb. 22, from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel discussion on the status and history of the Whole-Home Repairs program, and how advocates want to see it improved. Register here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org


As seen at the Warwick Furnace Farm in Chester County by @mar_sees_life. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

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Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.2024 POLLING: President Joe Biden’s age was a concern for 64% of Pennsylvania voters in polling released Tuesday by Emerson College, while former President Donald Trump’s indictments were a concern for 57%. The poll has Trump with a two-point lead, within the margin of error, while Biden leads by one point in a four-poll average.
  • These Muslim activists in Pennsylvania want to 'abandon Biden' over Gaza, via The Inquirer (paywall)
  • Some Latinos in Pennsylvania feel 'sense of nostalgia' for Trump economy, via WBUR
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.DOUBLE DIGITS: The same Emerson College poll has incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D., Pa.) up 10 points over GOP challenger David McCormick. Thirteen percent of voters were undecided. The AP reports Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls are courting Trump's approval in a number of battleground states — but not this one.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.ON APPEAL: A federal appeals court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a case that could impact the 2024 election. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia is set to decide whether mail ballots without proper dates should be counted, as long as they're received in time. Opponents say date mandates penalize meaningless mistakes.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
SCOTUS CASE: As cities like Pittsburgh respond to a rise in chronic homelessness, NPR reports the U.S. Supreme Court is set to weigh a case that could reshape ground rules for encampment clearings and more. At issue: Is fining or arresting people for sleeping outside when there's no shelter available cruel and unusual punishment?
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.'RIGHT TO DIE': More states are weighing bills that would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients, Axios reports. Attempts to advance such legislation in Harrisburg have repeatedly failed. A related bill — modeled after Oregon's pioneering Death with Dignity Act — has sat in a state House committee here since March.
STAYING POWER: Older Americans are staying in their homes for longer, and Bloomberg reports that's a problem for the housing market. Economist Chris Briem notes Pittsburgh's exceptional share of such nesters.

SNOW SQUALL: A recent snow squall on Flagstaff Mountain in Carbon County was captured by photographer Mike Stanislaw and is being called a "picture perfect" example of the winter weather phenomenon.

ABOVE NORMAL: Speaking of snow... Allentown is the only climate station along the East Coast that has seen above average snowfall this winter, via the National Weather Service. Allentown is two inches above normal.

'DREAM'S END': A 60-acre estate anchored by a very eco-friendly home in Clinton Township, Butler County is on sale for $1.25 million. TribLIVE profiles the widow who's leaving it behind and embarking on a new chapter.

RARE LEGO: A rare, 14-karat gold Lego piece was found at a Goodwill warehouse in DuBois, Clearfield County and is up for auction today, KDKA-TV reports. It's expected to fetch thousands of dollars.
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