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GOP election probe seeks info on every Pa. voter

Plus, auditor general pans Pa.’s secretive COVID-19 business waivers.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 15, 2021
Partisan plan, waiver watch, open records, map support, 'coup attempt,' ballot shortage, and Rite Aid heads east. It's Wednesday, thanks for checking in.

Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg want personal information on every registered voter in Pennsylvania, as well as a trove of communications between state and county election officials, in their continued and contested push for a new review of the 2020 election.

A sweeping subpoena crafted by GOP lawmakers and due for a Senate committee vote today requests the name, address, and partial social security number of every voter registered as of last November, Spotlight PA reports. 

It also seeks copies of any guidance by the Department of State to county election administrators, all training materials used to prepare county-level election workers to count votes, and any changes made to voter rolls.

Gov. Tom Wolf's office says it has yet to receive the subpoena but remains strongly opposed to the effort, which it likens to a widely discredited election review in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Republicans, meanwhile, say they're prepared to fight any litigation by the Wolf administration or others all the way to Pennsylvania's highest court.

THE CONTEXT: Combing through the thousands of documents that could pour in from the subpoena would fall to staff and attorneys for the Senate's Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which is leading the review.

There is no set budget for the investigation, which critics say will unnecessarily cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Republicans say they believe the sweeping review is necessary to ensure there were no irregularities in last year's election — even though the GOP's own leaders have acknowledged they have no evidence of fraud.

Across the aisle, Democrats in the state legislature say the effort is a baseless partisan attack meant to undermine President Joe Biden's victory.


"We have the authority to make laws, not secretaries of agencies." 

—State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R., Warren) summing up GOP objections to a school mask order issued by acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam
COVID-19 UPDATE: COVID-19 has closed a Philadelphia public school two weeks into the year; Pennsylvania business groups are mostly reserving judgment on President Biden's sweeping vaccine requirement; and new data show breakthrough cases in Pennsylvania are very rare. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
A katydid (and not a leaf with legs!) photographed in Derry Township. He definitely looks camera ready. Thanks, Robert N.!  Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
BUSINESS CALLS: The Wolf administration’s controversial COVID-19 business waiver program allowed some businesses to remain open during the early months of the pandemic. But Spotlight PA reports a newly released state audit found the program was secretive, flawed, and unfair — hurting businesses and putting public health at greater risk.

CANNABIS CLOAK: The Office of Open Records this month ruled in favor of Spotlight PA and ordered Pennsylvania's health department to disclose how many patients are certified for cannabis under each of the state's 23 qualifying conditions. It's a significant legal victory and sets the stage for rare disclosures of closely guarded information.

MAP ASSIST: Gov. Tom Wolf has formed a council to help him review a congressional redistricting plan that the state's General Assembly is due to draft this year. The plan will require Wolf's approval, and the governor has called on six experts to help guide a decision with far-reaching political implications, WFMZ reports. 

SWING SHIFT: Rolling Stone magazine has a closer look at the cozy relationship between U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) and a fitness empresario from the Philadelphia suburbs who took busloads of people to the Washington D.C. rally that preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — an attack Fitzpatrick himself called a "coup attempt."

VOTE COUNT: York County's ballot shortage in May's primary sparked an outcry and fueled conspiracy theories. Now, local officials have outlined steps they say should be taken to keep recent history from repeating itself in November. They include anticipating higher turnout and finding emergency ballot printers, York Daily Record reports. 
SENDOFF: A funeral service for actor Michael K. Williams — of "The Wire" and "Boardwalk Empire" fame — was held Tuesday in Harrisburg, Fox43 reports. Williams' mother lives in the area. The actor died in Brooklyn at the age of 54 last week. A cause hasn't been announced.

FREE RIDES: More than $104 million in tolls were missed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike last year in the shift to all-electronic collections, the AP reports. Motorists without E-ZPass had a nearly 1 in 2 chance of riding for free.

REMINDER: This is a friendly reminder that you have just over a month left to register to vote in November's general election, if you haven't already. The deadline is Oct. 18. Get more info and a preview of your ballot here.

TRAINING: Lofty plans for expanded Amtrak service in Pennsylvania include more trips between hubs and new trips between places like Scranton and New York City. State officials heard all about it in a briefing last week, per ABC27.

RITE ON: Pharmacy chain Rite Aid is moving its headquarters from Camp Hill to Philadelphia and ditching "office spaces" for something more fluid. The company says its employees prefer working from home but also want physical space available for "in-person collaboration and company gatherings," per AP.
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.
Yesterday's answer: Accentuate

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Craig W., Neal W., Alan V., Suzanne S., Mark O., Beth T., Doris T., Barbara F., Irene R., Patricia M., Elizabeth W., Wendy A., Michelle T., Judith D., Susan D., Steve D., Don H., Ted W., Ronnee G., Al M., Diane P., Heidi B., Jill A., Kimberly S., Elaine C., Joel S., George S., Dennis M., Craig E., Ann E., Kim C., Brandie K., Dianne K., Mike B., Bill S., Kyle C., Beth L., Sandy B., Daniel M., and John H.
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