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ACLU sues Pa. county for rejecting primary ballots

Plus, Pa. pursues 'ineffective' missing child ID kits.

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Friday, June 9, 2023
ACLU suit, no evidence, smoke forecast, big wallet, energy bills, and a lawmaker lockout. Thanks for stopping by. And happy weekend.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is suing Delaware County for rejecting provisional 2023 primary ballots cast by a handful of voters whose mail ballots had already been rejected for technical errors.

The ACLU argues the action disenfranchised several eligible voters based on an incorrect interpretation of the law. While the legal dispute only involves roughly a half-dozen voters, it may raise the question of whether voters statewide have another means of voting if their mail ballot is rejected.

“We need clarity in the law on this,” said Marian Schneider, senior voting rights policy counsel at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “I think that the intent was to prevent double voting, but there's an inconsistency with the earlier version of the statute, and as we said in our petition the courts should reconcile that."

Read Spotlight PA and Votebeat's full report: This Pa. county rejected voters’ flawed mail ballots. Then it refused to count their in-person votes.

THE CONTEXT: Delaware County notified voters with disqualifying mail-ballot errors ahead of time so they could fix them. The ACLU said its clients’ age made it difficult to travel to the election office to do that, so they went to their local polling place and cast provisional ballots instead.

While Pennsylvania’s no-excuse mail-voting law says “a provisional ballot shall not be counted if … the elector’s absentee ballot or mail-in ballot is timely received” — a reading affirmed by the Commonwealth Court in 2020 — the ACLU argues another section of the law takes precedent. 

That section says a provisional ballot “shall” be counted as long as the voter didn’t already cast another vote. The ACLU says that voters who have their mail ballot canceled by definition did not have it counted. And to “cast” a ballot means for it to be counted, the organization contends.

Spokesperson Adrienne Marofsky said Delaware County's election board followed the law as it understood it and “will litigate this matter with the goal of seeking clarity from the courts of Pennsylvania on this important issue.” 


"How someone else chooses to do their job doesn’t affect the way I choose to do mine."

Lebanon County DA Pier Hess Graf on seeking the death penalty against two suspects in last week's fatal triple shooting in Lebanon despite Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro vowing to block executions while in office
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A red moon over Ridley Park in Delaware County due to Canadian wildfire smoke, via Don N. More below on what to expect this weekend. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A hazy, red-tinged moon.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.KIT QUESTIONS: Pennsylvania lawmakers are pursuing a bill that would give parents kits to collect DNA, fingerprints, and other identifying markers from their children should any of them ever go missing. But the state of Texas is now pulling major funding for a similar program there after an investigation by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune found no evidence the kits have helped locate missing children.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.WORKER PROTEST: Museum of the American Revolution staffers are protesting an upcoming event hosted by Moms for Liberty there, an event they want canceled, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. The conservative group fueling school board wars across the U.S. is also hosting a summit in Philly this month with speeches from several leading GOP candidates for president. The group was labeled an anti-government group by the Southern Poverty Law Center earlier this week.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.SMOKE SCENE: Unhealthy smoke from Canadian wildfires continued to impact Pennsylvania on Thursday, with conditions expected to slowly improve heading into the weekend, per CNN. Residents of Canada who were evacuated because of the fires will be allowed to return home today. Forest fires happen there, however, the size, ferocity, and number of fires this year is decidedly abnormal, USA Today reports.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.COUNTY NOD: WESA reports Joe Rockey, the GOP candidate for Allegheny County Executive, has won the backing of one of the region's more potent labor groups — the Pennsylvania District Council of the Laborers International Union of North America — and with it access to "one of the largest wallets in the region." A labor council rep said Democratic nominee and state Rep. Sara Innamorato’s desire to ban fracking within county limits “absolutely” played a role in its decision.Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.RGGI EXIT: Virginia took steps this week toward leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as Pennsylvania's entry into the carbon-capping program remains tied up in court. WaPo (paywall) reports GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin says the program has increased energy costs for consumers there, but a new analysis — commissioned by an environmental group — says the average residential customer in Pennsylvania would save $2 per month if the state becomes an RGGI member.
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania. The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now.

LOCKED OUT: Lawmakers are just like us and, as state Rep. and Democratic Appropriations Chair Jordan Harris recently shared, also lock themselves out of places and need to make embarrassing calls for help.

PRODUCTION PAUSE: Harley-Davidson has temporarily halted production at its assembly plant in York due to a parts shortage. It's the second parts shortage to halt production there in 12 months. 

ICE CREAM TRAIL: Pennsylvania's Ice Cream Trail is back with a record number of stops for 2023. You'll have 42 creameries and various paths to choose from. Plan your trip by clicking here.

SUMMER SHIRT: The T-shirt of summer 2023 is this mock metal-band merch with a skull, inverted goose, and the words "Wawa ... I shall die here." 

HOUSE FLOAT: This photo of a house floating down the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh stopped me in my tracks. Here's the video from 2015.

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 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Tchotchke

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Craig W., Don H., Stacy S., Jon W., Tracy S., Daniel A., Susan N.-Z., Jane R., Dianne K., William Z., Tom M., Dennis M., Eddy Z., Richard A., Joel S., Wendy A., Kim C., and Elizabeth B.
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