Skip to main content
Main content

The fringe theory that could reshape Pa.'s elections

Plus, a police officer who fatally shot a child in Ohio was briefly hired in Pa.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
July 8, 2022
Dangerous doctrine, questionable hire, crypto clamor, ethics complaints, bullet physics, campaign concerns, and a posthumous Medal of Freedom. It's Friday.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case that could reshape election policy across the country, including in Pennsylvania.

The case centers on an electoral map put in place by a North Carolina court after lines that fairly unfavored Republicans in the state were struck down. 

When legislative Republicans appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, they cited the independent state legislature doctrine, a fringe legal theory that asserts state courts should not be allowed to intervene in how legislatures draw political lines or decide the constitutionality of election laws.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has ruled on both issues in recent years, but a favorable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court would supersede those decisions.

THE CONTEXT: At least four U.S. Supreme Court justices have signaled support for the independent state legislature doctrine, raising the possibility of a favorable ruling.

In March, the court rejected an emergency injunction request for the North Carolina case, and a similar request from Pennsylvania lawmakers contesting the congressional map selected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But last week the U.S. Supreme Court said it would grant oral arguments for the North Carolina appeal.

Legal scholars in March told Spotlight PA and Stateline that the lawsuits are part of a larger effort by state lawmakers to erode other branches of governments' checks on their power.

“The notion that [lawmakers] are freestanding entities to do anything they want in this context is inconsistent with constitutional democracy,” said Carolyn Shapiro, a law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Legal scholars predict a favorable ruling in the North Carolina case would also give state legislatures the power to reject presidential electors determined by voters and make their own appointments.

"A recount of ballots would only show that our equipment counts ballots accurately, and the county has already proved that definitively time and time again."

—Forrest Lehman, director of Lycoming County's Office of Voter Services, summarizing the findings of an investigation into the county's 2020 election results prompted by a partisan group
The sun setting over Derry Township. Thanks for the photo, Robert N.
Send us your Pa. pics, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
COP OUT: The borough of Tioga recently hired Timothy Loehmann, the police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, to be its sole law enforcement official, prompting protests and criticism from Rice's family. The backlash from residents was so severe that Loehmann withdrew his application, the borough council president announced Thursday, per the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

ETHICS COMPLAINTS: A legal advocacy group that seeks professional consequences for lawyers who abetted former President Donald Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election filed complaints to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court against seven in-state attorneys and three out-of-state ones, The Inquirer reports. The group, The 65 Project, alleges the lawyers knowingly used their law licenses to undermine public faith in elections.

ICE BILL: The Pennsylvania Senate has approved a bill that would require motorists to remove snow and ice accumulations from vehicles 24 hours after a storm or face fines, the Morning Call reports. The bill was inspired by a fatal incident in 2005 in which an ice chunk slipped from a moving truck and struck an SUV on a road in Carbon County, smashing the windshield and killing a passenger.

PAGING DR. OZ: Politico reports growing intraparty tension as Republican Mehmet Oz's campaign for U.S. Senate remains mum after a close and heated primary that saw a recount. Since late May, the candidate's footprint on the campaign trail has been faint despite frequent criticism from Democratic opponent (and meme lover) John Fetterman and limited endorsements from key GOP figures.

UNSEALED: The FBI has unsealed its criminal complaints against 70 Pennsylvania residents it has charged since the Jan. 6 insurrection, per the York Daily Record. According to George Washington University, among the 46 states whose residents were charged in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Pennsylvania had the third-highest number of cases as of July 5.
ARC-EOLOGY: The Inquirer details the physics and consequences of shooting bullets into the sky, a long-standing issue newly raised after two Philadelphia police officers were struck at a July 4th event.

BUCKS BOOKS: For the fourth and final episode of its "Schooled" podcast, WHYY takes a deep dive into the origins of the pending book ban in Central Bucks School District, mapping how protests over masks metastasized into vehement opposition to LGBTQ texts.

MONKEY MAKEOVER: After the pandemic brought live shows to a halt, Jerry Brown, who performed music and magic across Pennsylvania as "The Monkey Man" with his capuchin partner, retired and embraced watercolor painting. LNP details how the transition came about.

MEDAL OF FREEDOM: President Joe Biden awarded a posthumous Medal of Freedom to Richard Trumka, late president of the powerful labor AFL-CIO union, and a Pennsylvania native. He died in 2021 of a heart attack.

TOASTY GELATO: Philadelphia confectioners Cloud Cups and Lokal Artisan Foods have joined forces for french toast gelato, per PhillyVoice. Yum.
Unscramble and send your answer to We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Mendaciously

Congrats to our daily winners: Dianne K., Bill S., David W., George S., Susan N.-Z., Don H., Doris T., Elaine C., and Lynne E.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.