July 9, 2021
Election law: No reform until 2023? 

PA House State Government Committee chair Seth Grove (R-York) seems to have closed the door on election reform, telling The Inquirer: “It’s over until we get a new governor.” Perhaps that’s a negotiating ploy, but the chance that counties and voters must tolerate the status quo through at least three more elections, including a high-profile midterm in 2022, is another symptom of severe dysfunction in Harrisburg. Passing major legislation requires “a set of preexisting relationships and a level of trust” between negotiators, C70 CEO David Thornburgh told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That’s unfortunately been eroded in the last couple of years.”
  • Voter ID from various angles: The inclusion of a voter ID provision in Rep. Grove’s HB1300 was ostensibly a major reason for the governor’s veto. How useful is voter ID (from the GOP’s point of view)? How bad (from the Democrats')? The Inquirer attempts to evaluate the divisive policy. The conclusion: “It’s complicated.”
2020 PA election audit: Mastriano’s three-county circus

We are deeply troubled by the letters sent by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) to three of Pennsylvania's 67 counties demanding access to a laundry list of election materials and records. This purported effort to restore faith in the 2020 General Election and 2021 Primary Election constitutes an outrageous abuse of power and a waste of already stretched time and resources for the targeted counties: Philadelphia, Tioga and York. Sen. Mastriano claims he wants to replicate the politically-orchestrated forensic investigation” in Maricopa, AZ, which was roundly criticized by election experts and career election officials. We strongly encourage these counties to protect the integrity of their election materials and decline this request. Read our full statement.
  • An exclamation point: As Al Schmidt, Philadelphia’s Republican City Commissioner, put it to CNN: “I would encourage our legislators to educate themselves to know that our election was certified and that it was audited, not once—but twice—and there was no doubt about the outcome. It was safe. It was secure. And it wasn’t even close.”
Caught our eye
An eight-round knockout: This New York Times graphic shows how Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams maintained his shrinking lead and finally passed the 50% threshold to win the New York City Democratic mayoral primary in the Big Apple’s first election conducted under ranked-choice voting.
On our radar
More sunshine: The Legislature passed unanimously and the Governor signed a bill requiring all government agencies, including counties, municipalities and school districts, to post their meeting agendas online at least 24 hours in advance.
Unresolved issues: In addition to election reform, the PA legislature failed to act on cocktails-to-go, lobbying reform and more before recessing for the summer. Spotlight PA is keeping track.
Funding cut for public media: The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports that PA’s seven public media outlets received no funding in the new budget. The portion was relatively small, but this doesn’t bode well for the decimated media environment.
Tax flexibility for localities: Pennsylvania was one of several states highlighted by a new Pew study finding that state-imposed limits on tax policy can put local governments in a bind, especially amid economic downturns.
How convenient should voting be? A New York Times analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona voting-rights case suggests that limits to the convenience in voting methods may be relatively permissible under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
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