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More mail-voting disputes likely, impeachment allies, and Alzheimer's 'game changer'

Plus, Shapiro unsure about Wolf's carbon-cutting plan.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 5, 2022
Ballot rules may vary, sworn duty, impeachment effort, pollution control, and the demolition of Sunnydale. It's Wednesday and Yom Kippur.

Unsettled questions around mail ballots in Pennsylvania could open the door for more legal action in the wake of next month's pivotal midterms.

The legislature and governor have failed to clarify the landmark 2019 law creating widespread mail voting, meaning ballot rules and key voting mechanics could vary across Pennsylvania's 67 counties. 

This includes rules around drop boxes and "ballot curing," which gives voters an opportunity to fix ballot errors to make sure their vote is counted.

In a recent Q&A with Spotlight PA, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman stressed that these issues will not affect the accuracy of the vote.

But she did say voters should study their local rules and "make a plan." 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Unresolved gray areas in Pa. mail voting law likely to spur fresh confusion, legal challenges

THE CONTEXT: The 2019 law that expanded mail voting in Pennsylvania doesn't say whether counties should allow "ballot curing," for example. It also doesn't mention drop boxes or how they should be regulated.

Those gaps fueled legal challenges after the 2020 general election and, since the law hasn't been clarified or updated since, could once again, potentially sowing public confusion around marquee midterm races here. 

Courts have ruled on some mail ballot questions already, and the Department of State has tried to clear up confusion by issuing related guidance.

But that guidance, which has its detractors, mostly in the Republican Party, isn't legally binding and may not be followed by all counties.

With two major statewide contests — governor and U.S. Senate — on the Nov. 8 ballot, litigation likely to follow, and little consensus on which practices are best, some county officials say they plan to proceed with caution. 


"I know that she'll do well in her new role. I wish her the best of luck."

—Ellwood City Mayor Anthony Court on Ellwood City native Debra Todd becoming chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

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...

»  Energy & Environment
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGTBQ Rights

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks. 

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:  

»  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 for 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.
» COOK REPORT: Pa.'s U.S. Senate race is a toss-up again (paywall)
» KDKA-AM: Fetterman pressed on health, record in radio interview
» PBS: The complicated dynamics of Pa.'s marquee midterm races
» THE HILL: Mastriano announces $1M ad buy after months off the air
» USA TODAY: New polling: Fetterman holds six-point lead over Oz
The Delaware River in Bucks County, courtesy of @youbetkev and @livelovebucks. Have a cool image to share? Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
CIVILIAN SERVICE: Nearly 900 positions within the Philadelphia Police Department that are held by sworn officers could be done by civilians, and would be in most other cities, University of Pennsylvania researchers say. The Inquirer (paywall) reports the authors of the study insist "civilianizing" parts of the force could result in a more diverse department with improved efficiency and productivity.

KRASNER CRITICS: The push to impeach progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over rising violent crime in the city is being led by Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg, with some Democratic support. For example: Sources told The Intercept that state Rep. Jordan Harris (D., Philadelphia) voted against holding Krasner in contempt but privately whipped votes in the other direction

RGGI MOVE: PennLive reports Democratic nominee for governor Josh Shapiro told a business crowd on Monday that he would not make a decision about Pennsylvania's place in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — the embattled plank of outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's climate change agenda — without more input from the legislature, the current leaders of which want to block the effort.

FRESHMAN CLASS: The number of freshman entering Pennsylvania's state university system are up systemwide for the first time since 2010, even as overall enrollment declined by 4.5% to 5.5% for the 2022-23 academic year. Chancellor Daniel Greenstein told the Post-Gazette (paywall) he sees freshman gains as "the first step in an upward curve" amid ongoing efforts to right-size and rescue the system.
NEW HOPE: There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but Pennsylvania patients and their doctors are encouraged by the advancement of a new drug, lecanemab, that slowed progression of the disease in a global study, per WHYY. Pennsylvania has one of the oldest populations in the nation and is unprepared for a projected surge in Alzheimer's cases in the coming years, Spotlight PA previously reported.

TAKEDOWN: Pittsburgh can move forward with a long-stalled plan to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus, an Allegheny County judge has ruled, via TribLIVE. The Italian Sons and Daughters of America sued to stop the removal. The statue has remained shrouded while awaiting the ruling.

WORK ZONE: Swatara Township's Sunnydale, a mostly working-class neighborhood, is set to be bulldozed for the latest phase of PennDOT's $1 billion expansion of I-83. Residents are relocating. "What can we do?" Mary Eichelberger said. "It has been talked about for 25 years."

ON THEME: Ok, folks, we've officially got a theme for this year's Pennsylvania Farm Show — aka Pennsylvania's "secret state fair." PennLive's Jan Murphy reports the state is going with a "Rooted in Progress" motif this year, and the butter sculpture is incoming. The event runs Jan. 7 to 14.

NEW CLAIMS: Seven families of color have joined a federal lawsuit alleging performers at Middletown's Sesame Place intentionally snubbed them for guests of other races, the Courier Times reports. Sesame Place denies allegations of racism and has announced new employee trainings.

FREE FALLING: Pennsylvania State Police are investigating after they say a group of people base jumped off a wind turbine in Somerset County, per ABC27. One person, a 33-year-old from Pittsburgh, was arrested. 

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.

Yesterday's answer: Feedback

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Michelle T., Hugh M., Ted W., Patricia M., Joel S., Kim C., Tom O., Marty M., Barbara F., Becky C., Irene R., Judith D., Greg V., Starr B., John F., Warren D., Don H., Deb N., Al M., Wendy A., Daniel M., Steve D., George S., Susan D., Beth T., Nancy S., Ronnee G., Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., Eddy Z., Mike B., John P., John H., Lewis Z., Anne B., David W., Chuck M., Stanley J., Catherine J., Jon W., Rick A., Bill S., Steve H., Tish M., Shelley C., David S., Dianne K., Cindy I., Karen W., John H., Antoinette F., Eugene M., Sandy B., and Doris T.
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