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How Pa.'s outdated Election Code could impact 2024

Plus, the Shapiro administration's latest resignation.

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

Monday, October 30, 2023
In today's edition: Old rules, election results, Negrin exits, official findings, cash advantage, anti-cruelty laws, and last-minute Halloween. 

Pennsylvania's Election Code is full of rules that don't make much sense for 2023, and it could impact the presidential election of 2024. 

From Spotlight PA's reporting: 

Many obsolete provisions, like the need for lanterns at polling places, are ignored these days. But some outdated sections aren’t as amusing.

A review of the Election Code by Spotlight PA and Votebeat found that numerous conflicts between sections have led to confusion and lawsuits, and fueled misinformation. The law also does not address key legal precedents or reflect how elections are run in 2023 with evolving technologies.

Read the full report: Pennsylvania’s Election Code is badly outdated. That could have serious consequences in 2024.

THE CONTEXT: Lawmakers last overhauled the state's Election Code in 1937 amid now-familiar claims of “contradictory and confusing" provisions.

There has been a slew of amendments since. Still, current practices in election administration, modern technology, or new legal precedents have often failed to be incorporated, leaving much room for more misinformation, electoral chaos, disenfranchisements, and costly lawsuits in 2024. 

In the absence of a comprehensive Election Code update, some officials are urging a kind of state manual or comprehensive training for election directors that could lend itself to more uniform practices.

The Pennsylvania Department of State and its secretary can issue guidance to help counties navigate areas of the law that are confusing or lacking. But unlike Arizona, for example, the directives do not have the force of law.


"We really need to get it done."

—State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Philadelphia) renewing calls for a red-flag law in Pennsylvania on the heels of last week's mass shootings in Maine; the AP reports Maine police were alerted about the shooter's prior threats.
At Spotlight PA, we put voters front and center in our nonpartisan election coverage. Get all the information you need to make an informed vote this November by visiting our Election Center website

» See how judges affect you and the issues you care about most

» Pa. Supreme Court 101: What it is, why it matters, and more

» Complete guide to the candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

» Pa. Superior Court 101: What it is, why it matters, and more

» Pa. Commonwealth Court 101: What it is, why it matters, and more

» Complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» What to know about the judicial retention questions on Pa. ballots

» Complete guide to who is on the ballot, when to vote & more 

» Everything you need to know about using a mail ballot 

» Elecciones Pa. 2023: Traducciones al Español

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» VOTER READY: Join us Thursday, Nov. 2 from 6-7 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on voting rights in Pennsylvania, important dates and deadlines, and answers to your remaining Election Day questions. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

» RESULTS REVIEW: Join us, the New Pennsylvania Project, and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts on Thursday, Nov. 16 from 6-7 p.m. for a Q&A on the election results. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.


Opossum Lake in Cumberland County with Frank, Buzz, and photographer Todd C. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

two dogs running on a dock surrounded by water and fall foliage.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ELECTION ETA: New technology and growing familiarity with mail ballots among poll workers will make for smooth sailing during Pennsylvania's upcoming Nov. 7 election, experts predict. As for how quickly you can expect results: Odd-year elections like this one tend to see lower turnout, meaning the chances of long polling place lines and overloaded ballot counting are lower, Spotlight PA reports.
  • RELATED: Pennsylvanians are about to decide who will oversee the 2024 elections, via Bolts magazine
  • In a change of course, national and state Republican leaders promote mail ballots, via WITF/LNP
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.CABINET DEPARTURE: Rich Negrin, the secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, will be on medical leave until he officially resigns on Dec. 9, StateImpact reports. No further details were given. Jessica Shirley is the acting interim chief. The search for a longterm replacement is sure to be watched closely by activists who are already scrutinizing the administration's environmental footing.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.IN DISPUTE: Washington County's coroner says a police shooting ruled justified by the local district attorney should have instead led to criminal charges against the officer involved, WPXI reports. Eduardo Lee Hoover Jr., 38, was killed following a vehicle chase in April. Concerns about DA investigations of the local police they often work closely with have spurred calls for more third-party involvement.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CASH EDGE: PublicSource reports Democrat Sara Innamorato is trailing Republican Joe Rockey in the fundraising race for Allegheny County executive — a post with more than one million constituents. The motives of outside donors are being closely scrutinized by both campaigns. This is likely to be the last Allegheny County contest with zero limits on campaign contributions following a May vote by the county's Council.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.HUMANE LAW: A push is underway to nationalize animal cruelty laws in agriculture and override state anti-cruelty measures. The federal EATS Act was inspired by laws in California and Massachusetts seen as bad for the meat industry. In Pennsylvania, activists say the bill would overturn 30 laws — many of them rarely enforced — and prevent tougher anti-cruelty rules from being adopted in the future, per PennLive (paywall).
🏆 QUICK QUIZ: See how closely you were paying attention to the news last week with seven questions in the latest Great PA News Quiz: Unforgiven taxes, Biden billion, House speaker, and tech tort.

WAX THEORY: Lawyers for professor Amy Wax are using U Penn free-speech talking points (deployed during a pro-Israel backlash) to argue that she shouldn't be sanctioned for, among other things, inviting a white supremacist to speak on campus twice, the Washington Free Beacon reports.

ON STRIKE: Despite a tentative deal being reached with Ford amid a broader strike, United Auto Workers union members at Mack Trucks locations in Pennsylvania and two other states say they remain at an impasse.

STEEL SALE: A U.S. Steel official said during a recent earnings call that the company is still weighing "serious interest from many highly credible bidders" looking to buy it, TribLIVE reports. A timeline for a decision is unclear.

LAST MINUTE: Halloween is tomorrow, and if you're a Philadelphian who hasn't figured out your costume, this Billy Penn list of DIY city-centric options — the I-95 livestream, Phillies himbo — may be your best bet.

TAKE A BIKE: If traveling from south-central Pennsylvania to Maryland and back by bike is on your bucket list, the Baltimore Banner has tips about how to have a successful trip on the Torrey C. Brown and Heritage rail trails.

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