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The ACLU's effort to reshape PA's mail ballot law

Plus, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s ballot odds.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

Friday, May 17, 2024
Today: Curing policies, disclosure access, indie challenges, conflict of interest, legislation block, and federal charges. Thanks for checking in.
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The ACLU of Pennsylvania is suing Butler County and may file other lawsuits to challenge policies that disenfranchise voters who make errors on their mail ballots.
The organization filed the suit on behalf of two voters who didn’t insert mail ballots into secrecy envelopes before returning them for the April 23 primary. 
It is also filing public records requests to identify more counties that don’t allow voters to correct flawed mail ballots or provide notice to voters that their ballot will be rejected. 
Such records requests are often a precursor to a lawsuit, and signal that the group is targeting the "notice and cure" process, a major gray area in state law that leads to uneven rules for voters across Pennsylvania.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Lawsuit, records requests signal ACLU effort to target ‘notice and cure’ policies for flawed mail ballots
“We have economic power. We have political power, we’re just not using it.”

Victor Martinez, owner of La Mega Radio station in Allentown, on his efforts to empower Pennsylvania Latinos.
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 A mourning dove nesting in one of Jeaneen Z.'s hanging baskets in Glenshaw. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
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Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.
PUBLIC TRANSPARENCY: Pennsylvania judges are required to report the perks they accept annually, but these disclosures are not posted online, Spotlight PA reports. Anyone looking for a copy must ask the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Good-government advocates argue this inconveniences those looking to quickly access fundamental information about the judiciary.  

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
BALLOT ODDS: To make the ballot in Pennsylvania, independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will need to file 5,000 voter signatures and pay $200 by Aug. 1. But The Inquirer (paywall) reports he’ll likely face another obstacle: legal challenges from the Democratic National Committee. Kennedy has already made the ballot in five states. 
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
DUAL POSITIONS: Democratic state treasurer candidate Erin McClelland’s volunteer communications director is also a freelance journalist who recently highlighted the race in an article about Gaza protests at Columbia University, PennLive reports. Chris Benson and McClelland do not see an issue with the dual roles, but incumbent Stacy Garrity’s campaign and a journalism expert do. 
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
COUNTY CRACKDOWN: A lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would block counties “actively suing over fossil fuel use” from collecting revenue from a fee paid by natural gas drillers. The announcement from state Sen. Gene Yaw (R., Lycoming) came after Bucks County sued the oil industry in March, alleging it lied to residents about the impact of fossil fuels on the climate. Bucks County collected more than $770,000 from impact fees in 2022.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
BIDEN THREATS: A Pennsylvania man who allegedly threatened to kill President Joe Biden and his cabinet in a video posted online is facing federal charges and a maximum of 20 years in prison, CNN reports. Prosecutors allege the man posted several videos before Biden’s Scranton campaign visit in April. 
🤔 NEXT QUESTION: Are you on top of the news? Prove it with the latest edition of the Great PA News Quiz: McCormick's term limit vow, 'scandalous' conduct, and stunning solar weather.
URBAN UPLIFT: The Biden administration wants to use federal funding to revitalize predominantly Black communities in Pittsburgh, TribLIVE reports. 
RESTORATION DELAY: Harrisburg City Council has rejected a proposal to hire a city-based company to rebuild part of Broad Street Market, The Burg reports. The decision could delay work by months. 
LIBRARY FUNDING: Mountville Borough Council has agreed to give $13,000 to its local library after deferring the donation because of a planned Drag Queen Story Hour at a different branch. 
FUNDS FUED: Organizers behind Pittsburgh’s decade-long Juneteenth celebration are criticizing the Gainey administration, saying it is using funds meant for them to produce a city-sponsored event, WESA reports. 
FREE FISHING: The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission says this year’s “Fish for Free Days” will be May 26 and July 4, WTAE reports. The event is open to residents and non-residents. 
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