May 21, 2021
Another election in the books, less intense than the last one

Tuesday’s primary election was successful despite snafus in a number of counties including Philadelphia: faulty scanners, coding errors, paper-ballot shortages and malfunctioning vote-by-mail equipment. Poll-worker shortages also delayed the opening of polling places, a bigger challenge in off-year elections when public interest declines. But problems were scattered, and Spotlight PA’s overall assessment was: “Typical.” Counties are still adjusting to the administration of mail-in voting (including more than two dozen with new election directors), but as C70 policy director Pat Christmas put it to Spotlight PA: “The counties remain extremely stretched—stretched for personnel, stretched for funding, stretched for time—and that’s going to increase the risk that mistakes are made.” And there was good news: most mail-in ballots were counted quickly and turnout was up around the state: Some 2M of the state's 8.5M registered voters (22%) cast ballots in person or by mail, 750,000 more than in the 2017 primary.
  • Less power in ballot position? While Municipal Court candidate Michael Lambert, who wasn’t endorsed by the Philadelphia Bar Association but drew top ballot position, was the top vote-getter in his race, the candidate who enjoyed the No. 1 ballot position among Common Pleas Court candidates, Caroline Turner (who was recommended by the Philly Bar), came in ninth. All the Common Pleas winners were Bar-endorsed, and top vote-getter Nick Kamau was highly recommended.
Open primaries: Momentum starts to grow

Tuesday’s primary election was one in which nearly 900,000 tax-paying registered Pennsylvania voters were almost completely disenfranchised, but that may not be the case for long. Last week, Rep. Chris Quinn (R-Delaware) introduced a bill that would open primaries to independent voters, and this week Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both measures would allow independent voters unaffiliated with a political party to vote in either a R or D primary. Pennsylvania remains one of only nine states to run fully closed primaries. "We’ll continue to have the benefit of observing how other states implement various primary and electoral reforms, including promising innovations with nonpartisan primaries and ranked-choice voting," Seventy CEO David Thornburgh told NBC10. "But for now, allowing independent voters unaffiliated with any political party to have a say on people who will represent them in public office should be a no-brainer."
Police Oversight Commission: Power and funding needed

Enabling legislation for the Philadelphia’s Citizens Police Oversight Commission that voters approved by a 4-1 margin in November moved out of a City Council committee Monday by a near-unanimous (14-1) vote, with final passage likely next week. The goal is for the commission to begin operations in July and with far greater authority than the current Police Advisory Commission, including the power to issue subpoenas while investigating charges of police misconduct. Advocates are still pressing for more funding, but more concerning is the possibility that the commission’s investigative power could be limited by the City’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, which expires in June. Deputy Mayor Rich Lazar testified Monday that granting the Commission those powers will be a top priority in negotiations for a new one.
  • What else is on the table? Among other things, the FOP wants “accountability pay” for cops wearing body cams, and the City wants some residency requirements and to bar arbitrators from overturning misconduct disciplinary measures. See past coverage from The Inquirer.
Caught our eye
On our radar
Perks for legislators: Check out Spotlight PA’s interactive database to see if your lawmaker was among the biggest spenders from 2017 through 2020.
Will next year’s primary be later than usual? Census delays will keep the population data used to draw PA’s congressional and General Assembly lines out of mapmakers' hands until perhaps September, but lawmakers might begin public hearings before they get it. WHYY has details.
Lobbying reform a possibility in PA: The GOP leadership in the General Assembly introduced bills that could tighten lobbying rules but activists question whether they go far enough, the PA Capital-Star reports.
Just what are the Feds looking for? The FBI is investigating whether execs of PA’s embattled public-school pension fund were involved in bribery or kickback schemes, according to Spotlight PA and The Inquirer.
PA Turnpike: A powerful state agency shrouded in secrecy: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette examines the notorious Turnpike Commission, which the late Gov. Dick Thornburgh argued should simply be abolished.
Get Involved
DIY with DTL: Draw the Lines Mapmaking Competition - Deadline: June 1

You have until June 1st to finish your map for the final Draw the Lines competition. This is the last contest before we start drawing for PA’s Congressional and General Assembly maps for real this fall. Remember, you have a chance to win up to $2,500 for your entry. This is the best way for you to demonstrate to the political pros that you are paying attention and ready to contribute to the real map drawing process later this year!
Divided We Fall: How Business Can Depolarize the U.S.
June 3, 17 and 29, 12-1:30 pm

Deepening political divisions pose a threat to our nation. It’s a concern that goes beyond the GOP’s right turn and the Democrats’ shift leftward—polarization and government dysfunction are debilitating the country’s ability to solve big problems. Join the Niskanen Center and Business for America for this four-part webinar, which will explore root causes of political polarization, its social and economic impacts, and what the business community can do to reduce it. The second session is June 3: How Business Can Depolarize the US. Register.
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Become a member today!