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Report blames staff exodus for election debacle

Plus, Shapiro says I-95 will reopen in two weeks.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023
🏆 NEWS QUIZ: Prove your Pennsylvania news prowess with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: I-95 disaster, budget fights, wage hike, and a political Hall of Famer.
Official findings, PSU legal bills, guilty on all counts, email evidence, Shapiro skeptics, drought duration, and state trooper killed in Juniata County.

A long-awaited report ties a ballot paper shortage that marred midterm voting in Luzerne County last fall to high staff turnover, in the process refuting related conspiracy theories that even gained an audience with Congress

Republican Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce, the author of the report, said there is "no question" turnover was the primary issue, echoing findings from a February report by Votebeat and Spotlight PA.

The DA's report details what preceded the shortage and the official confusion that followed. Sanguedolce also addresses spurious and inaccurate information that alleged "suspicious" causes and effects.

"This would be about the stupidest way to try to criminally influence an election," the district attorney said emphatically.

Read Spotlight PA and Votebeat's full report on the findings: Report blames turnover for Luzerne County's 2022 election debacle.

THE CONTEXT: At the time, Luzerne County's longest-tenured election staffer had 14 months of experience and was filling in as deputy director.

In February, Votebeat and Spotlight PA reported that the county's unique government structure, low pay, and the stress on election workers had contributed to an exceptionally high turnover rate there.

Sanguedolce said the question of how to fix Luzerne County's elections is beyond his authority, but he's backing a nascent proposal in Harrisburg calling for some type of required training or manual for election directors.

Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt and state Sen. Cris Dush (R., Jefferson), chair of the chamber's State Government Committee, a critical stopping point for proposed election law changes, both said there is a need for a more formalized training process or manual for new election directors amid an exodus that has plagued the state and nation in recent years.


“I can state with confidence we will have I-95 open within the next two weeks.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro on the rebuild of the collapsed Philadelphia roadway
» Post-Mastriano, DelRosso goes team Dominion, The Inquirer (paywall)

» State Rep. Webster wants a Pa. flag redesign, via @StephenJ_Caruso

» Pa.'s singing, driving, flag-waving identity crisis, via Spotlight PA

» Reading, Pa. turns to infrastructure law, EVs to save itself, via CNN

» Biden makes re-election pitch in weekend Philly stop, via Reuters
Investigative journalism that gets results. Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

» HOW HARRISBURG WORKS: Join us Thursday, June 22 at 6 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on Pennsylvania’s 2023 budget, what issues are on the table, and how you can get involved. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org


The former Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church in Palmerton, Carbon County, via Don N. Have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Onion domes on an old church on a hilltop.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PRIVATE FIRMS: Penn State paid five private law firms more than $4 million in fiscal year 2022, despite having its own 26-member Office of General Counsel with a budget of $11.4 million. Interested in learning more about how Penn State uses private law firms, and unable to rely on Right-to-Know requests due to a carveout for state-related universities, Spotlight PA asked Penn State several key questions.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.HATE CRIMES: A Pittsburgh jury on Friday convicted Robert Bowers on all 63 federal counts for the 2018 massacre at Tree of Life synagogue. The defense didn't refute his guilt, focusing instead on the next phase of the trial: the penalty phase. The same jury will soon decide if Bowers should be put to death. The defense argues that his mental health should preclude him from capital punishment.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.INSIDE LOOK: Emails unearthed as part of state Sen. Dan Laughlin (R., Erie)'s defamation suit against his local alt-weekly show the extent of the Trump administration's pressure campaign to get Pennsylvania's GOP lawmakers, including Laughlin, to nullify the 2020 election results. The Inquirer (paywall) reports Laughlin privately scoffed at the effort but also signed a brief in a Texas lawsuit challenging the results.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SHAPIRO SKEPTICS: Inside Climate News reports onetime supporters are questioning Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s commitment to environmental issues amid secrecy around his working group on climate change, the decision to lift a ban on fracking in polluted Dimock, and the embrace of a fossil fuel-powered hyrdogen hub. "Who is he listening to?" former Green Party candidate Michael Badges-Canning asked.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DROUGHT WATCH: Pennsylvania's current drought conditions could last for months, StateImpact reports. The state's Department of Environmental Protection issued a drought watch and urged voluntary water conservation last week. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service says we're entering a time of year when drought conditions usually don't improve. And those conditions started early this year.
  • RELATED: How drought is affected by climate change, via ICN.
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania. The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now.

FATAL SHOOTING: Trooper Jacques F. Rougeau Jr. became the 104th member of the Pennsylvania State Police to die in the line of duty after he was shot in Juniata County on Saturday. A second trooper was critically wounded in a separate encounter with the 38-year-old gunman

TWO ARRESTS: A former Allegheny County Executive candidate was arrested for shouting obscenities at Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey during a Juneteenth Parade over the weekend. In unrelated news: WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins is out after a DUI arrest in Pittsburgh on Friday.

DIPLOMA DENIED: A Philadelphia High School For Girls grad is calling for change after she was denied her diploma at a graduation ceremony for dancing on stage and making students laugh. Hafsah Abdur-Rahman said: "She [meaning the principal] stole that moment from me."

PLANE CRASH: Two people died in a plane crash in Cambria County on Sunday, per WJAC. Early information was limited but officials said the twin-engine plane crashed in a wooded area around 4 p.m. The two occupants were pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation continues.

FORKSVILLE POWWOW: The Sullivan County Fair Grounds became a place for education about Native American traditions and cultures for the 31st Annual Forksville Powwow over the weekend

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 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Friday's answer: Secularized

Congrats to our weekly winner: Kim B.

Congrats to our daily winners: Robert C., Tom M., Dan A., Doug W., Wendy A., Susan D., Dianne K., Susan N.-Z., William Z., Craig E., Elaine C., Stacy S., Kim C., Dennis M., Jon W., Barbara F., Kimberly D., Don H., and Craig W. 
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