Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Future of Pa. mail-voting law in high court's hands

Plus, state ban sticks Pa. woman with 30,000 bottles of Russian vodka.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 9, 2022
Love PA Post? Help keep it going. We depend on people like you who value our work to support it. To get rid of this pesky box, contribute now and you've done your part! Thanks! —Colin, PA Post editor
Vote-by-mail, fuel ban, use of force, 'serious changes,' bridge build, jail board, and Pennsylvania bear checks. It's Wednesday. This is PA Post.
Want to see your message here? Contact us about sponsoring PA Post.

The future of Pennsylvania's no-excuse mail-voting law is now in the hands of the state's Supreme Court, with lawyers arguing over the measure's constitutionality in a high-stakes hearing held Tuesday.

The law, Act 77, was approved by the GOP-controlled legislature overwhelmingly in 2019. And while Republican legislators supported it at the time, it fell out of favor after President Donald Trump lost the state in 2020.

The law's Republican challengers — several of whom voted for it — argue the legislature does not have the power under the state constitution to make such a change without voters first approving a constitutional amendment.

In January, a lower appellate court agreed, but the Wolf administration appealed to the state's highest court, arguing that the challengers must (and can't) prove the constitution directly prohibits the legislative act in question.

THE CONTEXT: In Tuesday's Supreme Court hearing, lawyers for the state pointed to a section of the constitution that says elections shall occur by ballot "or by such other method as may be prescribed by law."

The implication is that since laws are made by the legislature, the legislature has the authority to make election changes as is. 

Lawyers for the Republican challengers, meanwhile, say another constitutional axiom requires people to vote in person, except in very narrow circumstances. Broadening those circumstances, they say, would require an amendment.

Several justices noted how that specific language harks back to a time in history when the focus was on protecting the vote for white men only.

They pushed back on the state's position, too, citing prior cases that found the only constitutional exception to in-person voting is voting by absentee ballot. 

It's unclear how quickly the court will rule. The primary is 10 weeks away and the mail-voting law remains in effect while under review.


"These are essential items, especially for travel, and overcharging or inconsistent pricing is inexcusable ... the Controller's office takes its responsibility to ensure a perfect match with street prices seriously."

—Acting Allegheny County Controller Tracy Royston on significant markups found on items sold at Pittsburgh International Airport in violation of an agreement between the airport's retail manager and the airport authority
A foggy Bullfrog Valley in Derry Township, courtesy of Robert N. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
PRICE HIKES: President Joe Biden has banned imports of Russian fuel over the invasion of Ukraine, a move that's likely to push Pennsylvania's current record-setting gasoline prices even higher. Biden called it "Putin's price hike." Pennsylvania is taking steps to penalize Russia, too, including with a ban on Russian-made alcohol that left Margaret Bayuk, of Beaver Falls, holding 30,000 bottles of vodka.

OFF THE FORCE: The police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Thomas Siderio in Philadelphia last week will be fired for violating use-of-force directives, says Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, per 6ABC. Outlaw said evidence indicates Siderio fired at an unmarked police car, but she also said the officer used excessive force. Because the police involved were undercover, none were wearing body cameras at the time.

TIES TO RUSSIA: The Russian company behind a steel mill in Farrell and a plant in nearby Sharon says it could be "affected by serious changes in its operating environment" as economic consequences follow Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It's unclear what this might mean for the roughly 700 people employed at the facilities. The Sharon Herald reports the Russian oligarch with a controlling interest is bracing for impacts.

FERN HOLLOW: Less than two months after the collapse of Pittsburgh's Fern Hollow Bridge, PennDOT officials say a replacement is on the way and construction could begin as soon as April. But WESA reported that some groups are taking issue with the expedited approach, arguing rushing it "could be a long-term mistake." Even Gov. Tom Wolf wants a brief pause to allow the design to be more "carefully considered."

CITIZEN REP: Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has nominated a former warden to be a citizen representative on the county's Jail Oversight Board, a move one critic called a "blatant and unapologetic attempt to pack the board" with allies, via TribLIVE. Fitzgerald has faced criticism from oversight board members amid high-profile disagreements over jail conditions and in-custody deaths.
BOOK BLOCK: Parental concerns about Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel about the Iranian Revolution, have stalled Franklin Regional School District's plan to teach it. Students say the outrage is selective.

PARK LIFE: Pennsylvania's state parks logged 42.2 million visits last year, the second-highest total ever, and with that increased interest comes a need for a significant investment in the system, officials say, per Capital-Star. 

FISH FINDER: What compels someone to create a custom online map of every Lenten Fish Fry around Pittsburgh? Developer Hollen Barmer tells WESA she went to one, was hooked, and needed a way to find more.

BEARABLE: Pennsylvania Game Commission staff are checking on the health of tagged black bear mothers and their weeks-old cubs statewide, the latter having a "natural tendency to climb on you," the Daily American reports.  

FREE TESTS: More free at-home COVID-19 tests are available from the federal government. Order yours for mail delivery here
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.

*This week's theme: Temperature
Yesterday's answer: Calefaction

Congrats to our daily winners: Bonnie R., Craig W., Don H., Irene R., Susan D., Doris T., Kimberly S., Vicki U., Dianne K., Suzanne S., Pat B., Bill S., Susan N.-Z., and James B.
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.