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Mail calls, 2020 vision, and the rents are rising

Plus, what Pennsylvania voters think about abortion.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 5, 2022
Voting guide, long shadow, expiration dates, Pa. polling, surge prices, slow census, and squash legend. It's Thursday and Cinco De Mayo. 
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Pennsylvania's Democratic and Republican primaries are weeks away, with pivotal races for governor, U.S. senator, and more on the ballot. 

Nearly 800,000 voters have asked to cast their ballots by mail — an option available to all voters for any reason since 2020.

But how a mail ballot is filled out can determine whether or not it's counted. The same goes for when and where it's returned.

Spotlight PA has an easy-to-use guide on the dos and don'ts.

THE CONTEXT: The fate of no-excuse mail voting is in the hands of the state Supreme Court, which is weighing an appeal of a lower court ruling that tossed the law after a group of Republican lawmakers — many of whom voted for it — argued that the way it passed was unconstitutional.

The law remains in effect, though, pending the high court's ruling. That means voting by mail remains available to all.

For those planning to go that route, a few important notes: 

  • You can apply for a mail ballot online, in person at a county election office, or through the mail. Applications must be received by your county by 5 p.m. on May 10, but the sooner the better. 
  • When your ballot is filled out and you're ready to return it, make sure it's sealed inside both of the return envelopes provided — the inner "secrecy" envelope and the larger outer envelope. 
  • There's a voter declaration on the outer envelope. Be sure to sign and date the fields listed below that declaration language.
  • Some counties require paid postage, but others don’t. Check your county election website to confirm.
  • Ballots must be received by your county by 8 p.m. on May 17. You can try tracking your mail ballot here.
  • Your ballot can be returned by mail, but delivering it in person is a better option if Election Day (aka May 17) is close.
  • A ballot can be hand-delivered at designated drop boxes (if your county has one) or at your local elections office.
  • You can change your mind and vote on the machines at your polling place instead. Just take the mail ballot with you and have it voided.
  • If you don't receive your requested mail ballot or lose it, you can cast a provisional paper ballot at your polling place.

Keep scrolling for more Spotlight PA election coverage.


"We've seen rusted pipes from which leaks occur…we've seen open hatches on tanks that continue to vent, and all of these issues can be fixed via regular monitoring and leak inspection repair."

Mark Omara, the lead author of a study that found low-producing oil and gas wells still produce high levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas
» Takeaways from Wednesday's Republican U.S. Senate debate

» A complete guide to the May 17 primary, including how to vote, find your polling place, understand mail-in ballots, and more

» A guide to the overlooked race for Pa. lieutenant governor

» Your guide to the Democratic and GOP candidates for governor

» Big donations to GOP guv hopefuls: Who gave and how much?

» See how much cash Josh Shapiro has raised in the governor's race

» More election coverage
» PRIMARY PRIMER: Join us today at 6 p.m. via Zoom for a free Q&A on Pennsylvania's candidates for governor, how they plan to lead, and how to spot misinformation. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Halfway up the 1,000 Steps Hiking Trail in Huntingdon County, via @pabucketlist. Have a cool pic you'd like to share? Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
2020 VISION: The 2020 election is looming large over the 2022 Republican contests for governor and U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. The AP reports unsubstantiated claims of fraud are common on the campaign trail, showing the extent of former President Donald Trump's pull over the party. But the tool for mobilizing Republican voters at the polls in May could be a liability come November, pollsters say.

NO WAIVERS: Professional licensing waivers meant to make it easier to staff pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic will begin expiring in phases on May 23, per PennLive. All will be gone by June 30. The waivers can't be extended by the governor without a disaster declaration, which the GOP-led General Assembly ended in June. Also expiring: a waiver that authorized telemedicine services and helped to bridge lingering health-care gaps

STATE ISSUE: The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would leave abortion access up to the states. Spotlight PA reports that possibility has further raised the stakes in this year's race for Pennsylvania governor, with all nine GOP candidates in favor of new limits, some with no exceptions. As for the voters: Polling shows most Pennsylvanians fall somewhere in the middle.

PRICED OUT: Rents are spiking nationwide and Pennsylvania is no exception. An interactive map created by The Washington Post shows the counties seeing the largest increases in the state are Adams (+18.7% since 2019), York (+16%), Lehigh (+16.8%), and Northampton (+16%). The only decrease in the state was found in Clinton County (-7.5%). To address the problem, advocates and some state lawmakers say a permanent rental assistance fund is needed here.

SLOW CENSUS: Still waiting for the most detailed statistics from 2020's contentious census? It's gonna be a bit. The New York Times reports deliveries of the granular data — how many preschoolers live in Pittsburgh, for example — are still a year or more away. The bureau is blaming COVID-19 disruptions and privacy diligence for the long delay. Here's a look at the kinds of data that are still outstanding.

OPEN FEUD: After a prominent Pittsburgh architect and his wife were charged with ethnic intimidation of a Russian neighbor, TribLIVE sought out more details and found trolling and open hostility in one of the city's toniest neighborhoods. It also found family ties leading to the Kremlin.

GIG GIFT: Nick Dunphy, the owner of the Caddy Shack Restaurant in Hampden Township, has given 12 longtime employees 70% of the business, PennLive reports. "Anyone who was with me 12-plus years, that was the cutoff," Dunphy said. "It was my way of saying thank you."

SQUASHED: The country's top-ranked squash player lives in Philly and now has a glowing New York Times Magazine profile to add to her resume. Amanda Sobhy is the first American-born player to crack the world's Top 10 and could go all the way to No. 1. The expectations and pressure are high

BAD BARGAIN: The National Labor Relations Board is wading into the labor dispute at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, per WESA, saying managers are refusing to bargain in good faith with the union representing the award-winning newsroom's employees, who've gone five years without a new contract

MOVIE MONEY: Film production has brought in more than $3 billion in revenue since Pennsylvania's related tax credit began in 2007, state Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R., Beaver) told Axios. To keep the money rolling in, the industry wants lawmakers to raise the credit limit by nearly 80%.

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: Spring things
Yesterday's answer: Florescence

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Bonnie R., Wendy A., Ted W., Mark M., Susan N.-Z., Don H., Kim C., Susan D., Elvino M., Catherine B., Elizabeth W., Kimberly S., Elaine C., George S., John A., Dianne K., James B., Vicki U., Bill S., David W., Dan W., Jude M., and Irene R.
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