Racing to prepare Pennsylvania for the November election

Report on June 2 primary recommends changes to state's election law

  • Emily Previti/PA Post
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A voter checks in at the Mount Joy Borough Municipal Office on June 2, 2020. Many polling places were equipped with plexiglass screens to minimize the chance of spreading coronavirus between poll workers and voters.

Kate Landis / WITF

A voter checks in at the Mount Joy Borough Municipal Office on June 2, 2020. Many polling places were equipped with plexiglass screens to minimize the chance of spreading coronavirus between poll workers and voters.

The Pennsylvania Department of State on Saturday released a report on the June 2 presidential primary that includes recommendations for revamping the state’s election code ahead of the November general election.

The recommendations include:

  • Mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day could be accepted by county election offices as long as they arrive by Friday of election week.

  • Allow counties to begin pre-canvassing three weeks before Election Day.

  • Allow counties to appoint poll workers to fill vacancies at least 60 days before election day, versus the five-day window currently allotted, and permit workers to serve in any district within their county of residence.

For more on the DoS report, read my story from Monday.

Since the report’s release, Republicans in the Pa. Senate voiced some concerns to me about the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, or SURE system (as Pa.’s voter registration system is known), that could figure into negotiations over election reforms that are expected to resume the week of Aug. 10 or 17 (this cuts close to the deadline cited in the DoS report: changes to the law need to be effective by early September so that counties have time to implement them).

The GOP’s list related to SURE includes audits, upgrades, establishing a SURE oversight board and evaluating the effectiveness of the multistate Electronic Registration Information Center, according to State Government Committee Chairman John DiSanto’s office. No word yet from the Department of State on what, if anything, officials already are doing or planning to address some of those issues.

BTW, Pa. joined ERIC in 2016; the organization helps its 30 member states identify people who aren’t registered to vote but who are eligible, and it scours voter rolls to identify non-citizens or other unqualified voters. Doing a better job of maximizing ERIC’s services is one of many recommendations made last December by the Auditor General in a report on Pa.’s voter registration system.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner has essentially paused the Judicial Watch lawsuit against DoS and three counties (Bucks, Chester and Delaware) over maintenance of voter rolls until after the election. Watch for a story sometime soon from WHYY’s Katie Meyer on how the case might have an impact anyway.

The latest on other Pa. election lawsuits:

  • U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan has agreed to several organizations intervene in the lawsuit brought by President Trump’s reelection campaign against the Department of State and all 67 county election directors over the commonwealth’s rules for drop boxes, poll watcher eligibility, and other election procedures. Groups that will join on the side of the defendants in the case include: the Public Interest Law Center, ACLU of Pa., NAACP Pennsylvania conference, League of Women Voters, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Sierra Club, Common Cause, and PennFuture. Ranjan has yet to rule on motions to dismiss the case.

  • Commonwealth Court Prothonotary Michael Krimmel has scheduled a meeting for Oct. 13 regarding the ExpressVote XL lawsuit that’s been languishing since Judge Kevin Brobson decided during the spring not to expedite the matter. Given the continued delays in the case, plaintiffs say they don’t expect any meaningful changes before the November 3 election.

Related news: 

Best of the rest

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

SAN PABLO, CA – NOVEMBER 06: Syringes filled with flu vaccine sit on a table during a drive-thru flu shot clinic at Doctors Medical Center on November 6, 2014 in San Pablo, California. Doctors Medical Center hosted a drive-thru flu shot clinic offering free vaccines for any community member over the age of 18. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Don’t let coronavirus distract you and your family from getting a flu shot this year. NPR has a story about what’s expected to be a major campaign to deliver flu shots to Americans this year, as medical experts worry that hospitals will be overrun with a second-wave of COVID-19 cases this winter. One CDC expert told NPR, “No year is a good year to get the flu, but this year — with COVID-19 also raging — it’s especially bad.” And if you need another bit of encouragement to get a flu shot, there’s new research that suggests people who get one are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s later in life!

  • The state’s top education official is leaving the Wolf administration to take over as the next head of the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster. Pedro Rivera will take over at the school in October. Gov. Wolf plans to elevate Rivera’s deputy, Noe Ortega, to be the next head of the state Department of Education.

  • Lancaster City schools will start the fall 2020 academic year with online-only instruction, LNP reports. It’s “the largest district in the county and 13th largest in the state with about 11,000 students” and becomes the only district in Lancaster County, so far, to opt for online-only instruction. But LNP notes that other districts in the county are “revisit[ing] their reopening plans due to growing consternation among families and school employees about the potential risks associated with the coronavirus.”

  • With Philly schools planning online-only instruction this fall, advocates for low-income families want Comcast to do more to provide broadband service to households that currently lack it. On Monday, the Media Mobilizing Project organized a protest outside Comcast’s headquarters. WHYY has more.

  • Meanwhile, faculty and staff at the University of Pennsylvania are urging the school’s leadership to send money to Philadelphia’s school system. Penn, as a nonprofit educational institution, is exempt from paying property taxes on its campus. Given the reliance on property taxes to fund schools, activists are campaigning to get more nonprofits in the city to contribute a portion of what they would have otherwise paid. “Over 10% of the property in Philadelphia is owned by nonprofit, tax-exempt institutions. Penn, the seventh richest university in the country, owns over $3 billion in property,” The Philadelphia Tribune reports.

  • The state Department of Human Services is defending itself against claims that it’s not living up to the 1999 Olmstead decision, a groundbreaking Supreme Court ruling that ordered states to stop segregating intellectually and physically disabled adults from their communities. Pennsylvania Capital-Star reporter Cassie Miller has more on the case, which was filed by Miranda Doxzon who says the state put her in a nursing home despite her objections.

  • Suburbia is a threat to Pennsylvania’s farms. That’s the conclusion of a new American Farmland Trust report, which found that the development of low-density subdivisions is the biggest threat to farming. LNP has more on the study, including this: “Fragmenting of the agrarian landscape and the disruption of agricultural economies often leads to a slow but inexorable domino effect. While being amid new neighborhoods may benefit some farmers in the near term with direct-market sales, it’s more likely that over time the critical mass needed for a viable farm community is lost.”

  • Members of Congress from Philadelphia want answers about reported delays in mail delivery. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Ellie Rushing tweeted Tuesday that Reps. Brendan Boyle, Dwight Evans and Mary Gay Scanlon will meet Wednesday with postal workers and residents to learn more about the situation. The Democratic lawmakers want the Trump administration to commit more funds to help the Postal Service keep up with deliveries. There’s growing concern that the White House is deliberately sabotaging the Postal Service as part of the president’s campaign against voting by mail.

  • Isaias passed quickly over Pennsylvania on Tuesday, but not before knocking out power for thousands of home and dumping a lot of water on us. Philly’s ABC6 has full coverage.

Coronavirus updates:


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