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More rejected mail ballots in communities of color

Plus, counties blow deadline for certified election results.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
November 29, 2022
Ballot blocks, prison report, senator-elect, Barletta bounces, delayed results, a Shyamalan surprise, and who's running now. It's Tuesday. Welcome.

Voters from communities with larger nonwhite populations are more likely to be impacted by Pennsylvania’s policy of rejecting undated and incorrectly dated absentee and mail ballots, Spotlight PA and Votebeat found.

The outlets analyzed data from three urban counties and discovered that ballots submitted by voters in communities of color were more likely to face rejection for technical issues. A disparity was also found around the income levels of flawed ballot voters in one of the counties, Allegheny.

Read the full report: Rejecting undated mail ballots disproportionately impacts communities of color in Pa., data shows.

THE CONTEXT: Republicans challenged the counting of undated and incorrectly dated mail ballots in the runup to this month's midterms, resulting in a state Supreme Court order halting their tabulations.

In response, some counties released lists of voters who had submitted these types of flawed ballots in an effort to have them rectify the error so their vote would be counted, a legal process known as ballot curing.

An analysis of these lists — released by Philadelphia, Allegheny County, and Erie County between Nov. 4 and Nov. 7 — found that the 3,571 voters who submitted the flawed ballots were more likely to come from communities with higher than average nonwhite populations.

The disparity was clearest in Philadelphia, where voters with blank or improper ballot dates were nearly 6 percentage points more likely to come from neighborhoods with more nonwhite residents than average.

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“I don’t understand where it’s coming from. I pride myself on the fact that we have a good, well-rounded collection. I think we take very seriously this charge of representing everyone. It saddens me that they believe that.”

—Ephrata Public Library Executive Director Penny Talbert on Akron Borough Council's plan to cut library funding for the sake of "conservative values"
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The mighty Susquehanna River, as seen by Julie J. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania

The banks of the Susquehanna River near Marietta are pictured in purple twilight.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.INTERNAL REPORT: Dauphin County won't release a report on the findings of an "in depth"-but-speedy review of county prison policies, one put in motion amid scrutiny over in-custody deaths. PennLive reports the county says the report was only done to shield the municipality from lawsuits. The outlet also said the person who conducted the review refused to provide his credentials upon request.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SENATE PREVIEW: Democrat John Fetterman won Pennsylvania's unusual and expensive U.S. Senate race. Now what? The AP takes a look at how his platform might translate in D.C., and how he's likely to fit in with the Democratic Party's various factions. In related news: While Fetterman's win helped his party maintain control of the Senate, the AP says that might prove harder to do in 2024.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.TURNAROUND: Early Trump backer Lou Barletta says he won't support the former president's 2024 White House run after Trump failed to support his bid for Pennsylvania governor. Barletta told Politico: “I was one of his most loyal supporters in Congress. But loyalty was only a one-way street.” The departure comes amid reports of a splintering of Trump's support in this battleground state.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.LUZERNE LAG: Luzerne County's five-person board of elections failed to certify midterm election results on Monday, the legally mandated deadline, Times Leader reports. Legal action from the state or candidates could follow. One Democratic board member abstained, yielding a 2-2 deadlock. This follows an Election Day paper shortage that touched off a lawsuit and scrutiny of county officials.  

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.UNCERTIFIED TOO: Allegheny County officials on Monday certified only a portion of the election results there, excluding 12 precincts where "defective" recount petitions loom in a fresh wave of election denial efforts, per the Pittsburgh Union Progress. A group of spectators jeered ahead of the certification vote. In Berks County, officials said recount requests would delay the certification of Nov. 8 results.
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MOVIE MONEY: Pennsylvania lawmakers set aside $5 million in extra film tax credits for Pennsylvania-based companies over the summer. The Inquirer (paywall) reports all of it went to one: The Berwyn-based company of big-time filmmaker and Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan.

SPECIAL RUN: Edgewood councilor and Democrat Bhavini Patel, who dropped out of the race for Pittsburgh's 12th congressional district in March, will seek the state House seat being vacated by that contest's winner, Summer Lee. It's one of several looming special elections in the area.

COUNTY HELM: Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb will run for Allegheny County executive next year, making him the second Democrat — and almost certainly not the last — to declare a bid for outgoing executive Rich Fitzgerald's seat. These issues could define the race.

NEW MEMBERS: Philadelphia got four new city council members on Monday, two of them holding at-large positions. All replaced fellow Democrats, filling vacancies resulting from a spate of 2023 mayoral bids.

VISUAL MEMORY: A photo of Pittsburgh's collapsed Fern Hollow bridge from January has made Time's list of the best photos of 2022.

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: Continuation

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Michael S., Kimberly D., Becky C., Vicki U., Beth T., Chuck M., Mike B., Ted W., Gina L., Jim B., Irene R., Patricia M., Barbara F., Deb N., Jon W., David S., Elaine C., Keith F., Ronnee G., John W., Don H., David W., Joel S., Rick A., Bill S., Ron H., Susan N.-Z., Mark C., Dianne K., Starr B., Jane R., Al M., Stanley J., and John P.
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