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The latest on undated mail ballots, new 'forever chemical' limits, and ex-police chief charged

Plus, Philadelphia extends its lauded eviction program.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 17, 2022
Legal limbo, stretched thin, eviction diversion, official misconduct, alternative medicine, forever chemicals, and kicks on Route 6. It's Monday.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration says undated mail ballots will count this November, and it's doubling down on guidance directing counties to tally any they receive amid differing interpretations of the legal landscape.

The administration says two Commonwealth Court rulings in favor of counting undated mail ballots are still the guidepost after last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in a separate case with related through lines. 

Adam Bonin, an attorney who frequently argues election cases on behalf of Democrats, agrees that the Commonwealth Court decisions — which were delivered by a Republican judge — are sound footing. 

But Joshua Voss, an attorney who argues election cases on behalf of Republicans, said the rulings are unpublished and non-binding.

With the legal picture unsettled, counties are prepping for more shakeups and proceeding with caution, Spotlight PA reports.

THE CONTEXT: Some county officials are expressing doubts that the state's guidance will remain relevant, and have said they plan to sequester undated mail ballots ahead of any lawsuits that may arise.

GOP leaders in the state House last week, citing the "high likelihood of new litigation," asked Pennsylvania's Department of State to update its guidance to require sequestration by all counties. That hasn't happened.

In an interview, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, a Wolf appointee, told Spotlight PA the agency has received "violent threats" since last week's high court decision — rendered in a case involving a handful of undated ballots that decided a Lehigh County judicial contest.

Chapman reiterated the department's position that undated ballots should be counted but acknowledged the courts could upend the rules and render her guidance outdated, possibly during this year's midterms.

The safest bet is still to sign and date your mail ballot envelope. Find more voting tips in Spotlight PA's complete guide to voting, finding your polling place, understanding mail ballots, and more.


"My name is on the ballot, but it's not me."

—Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle re-announcing his retirement to head off confusion as a Republican with the same name runs for the seat
Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:

»  College Funding & Student Debt
»  Energy & Environment
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGTBQ Rights
»  Abortion, Medicaid, & Opioids

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks. 

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:  

»  Your complete guide to voting in the Nov. 8 election
»  Everything you need to know about mail ballots
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
»  These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election in 50+ years
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español:

»  Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
»  Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
»  Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» AP: Shapiro breaks Pa.'s decades-old campaign finance record
» CNN: Oz seeks distance from campaign's mocking of rival's stroke
» LNP: Mastriano to speak at QAnon-linked event in Lanc Co. (paywall)
» NBC NEWS: Watch Oz's full interview with NBC's Dasha Burns
» MORNING CALL: Scheller, Wild on foreign affairs, hate crimes (paywall)
» THE INTERCEPT: Oz camp misled reporters about 'voter' encounter

» GOVERNOR'S GUIDE LIVE: On Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. via Zoom, Spotlight PA is hosting a free panel on who the candidates for governor are and how their administrations would impact you. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Roadside encouragement, as seen by Bruce T. on Route 45 in Mifflinburg, Union County. Have an interesting image? Send us your photos and art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
STRINGS ATTACHED: Sixty-four of Pennsylvania's 67 counties will have to prove that their workers tallied all mail ballots starting on Election Day, without stopping, if they want to receive a share of $45 million in new election grants from the state, WITF reports. The condition led several Pennsylvania counties to opt out over concerns that their staff would be stretched too thin to run Election Day activities.

HOUSING REPORT: Philadelphia officials have extended the city's pandemic-inspired eviction diversion program into 2024, the Philadelphia Tribune reports, months before it was set to expire. In other news: The push to stop a mass eviction at a low-income housing complex in University City has given rise to a protest movement Prism calls "one of the most dynamic forces in Philadelphia."

EX-CHIEF CHARGED: Weeks after being fired without a public explanation, Manor Township's former police chief was criminally charged with indecent assault. LNP (paywall) reports. Todd Graeff is accused of groping a female officer during an annual conference and retreat for The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association in July. Graeff allegedly asked the woman to keep quiet.

MEDICAL OPTIONS: GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz says he supports using medical marijuana to address a host of ailments, including opioid addiction. Democrat John Fetterman's support for cannabis as an addiction aid has been even more definitive. But as Spotlight PA reported, scientific questions and questionable tactics around cannabis and opioid use disorder remain. 

PFAS PROPOSAL: A Wolf administration attempt to impose new limits on two classes of PFAS is advancing and would require companies and municipalities to check water for the toxic "forever chemicals" and treat the water when they are found at higher levels, WHYY reports. In Centre County, one PFAS-exposed community is bracing for a lifetime of health monitoring, per Spotlight PA.

OLLIE'S STORY: With GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania looking to limit transgender kids' sports options and school discussions about gender, WITF profiles Ollie Wenditz, an eighth grader in the middle of it all.

GENIUS AWARD: PSU professor and historian P. Gabrielle Foreman is a 2022 "Genius Grant" award winner, recognized by the MacArthur Foundation for her documentation of the U.S. civil rights movement, per NBC News.  

ROAD TRIPPING: AARP took a drive along Pennsylvania's Route 6 Heritage Corridor and says you should, too. The itinerary includes the towering Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct and some of the darkest skies on earth.

BIG IDEAS: A group of retired "aunts and uncles" in Philadelphia is ready to hear your big entrepreneurial ideas. If they like what they hear, they might throw you a little seed money, NextCity reports.

FEDERAL CASE: A Hermitage angler at the center of a cheating scandal that rocked the world of professional fishing last month has now been indicted on related federal charges in Cleveland, the AP reports.

BONUS BLURB: The Phillies are moving on to their first National League Championship since 2010. Red October continues.

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 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Friday's answer: Crumbliest

Congrats to our weekly winner: Steve D.

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan N.-Z., Don H., Wendy A., Craig W., Dom A., Elaine C., Beth T., Kimberly D., Susan D., Joel S., Bill S., Dianne K., James B., Kim C., and Stanley J.
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