May 27, 2022
Primary fallout: An intra-party mail-in standoff

It’s a little ironic these days that a Republican candidate is suing to count disputed mail-in ballots, but as the GOP Senate primary heads into a recount, Dave McCormick needs as many votes as he can get to overcome his 1000-vote (give or take) deficit, and he does have a 13,000-vote edge over Mehmet Oz among the 80,000 undisputed mail-in ballots the two have received so far. The undated (but time-stamped) ballots McCormick wants to have counted (fewer than 8000 statewide, most of them Democratic) are otherwise legitimate and ideally should be counted, but no matter how the courts rule in this case, only a change in state law to remove needless hoops for mail-in voters to jump through will end this type of controversy.
  • Civility so far: We’re pleased and relieved that Oz and McCormick haven’t publicly attacked each other—or PA election officials—in the week and a half since Election Day. As this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial puts it: “Losing gracefully and winning patiently are necessary democratic norms.”
PA’s closed primary: Playing to the base

Campaigning on issues ought to be a democratic norm as well, but policy issues didn’t drive either of PA Senatorial races or the Republican Gubernatorial race. Instead, it was a “doubling down on their base of voters and slicing and dicing their opponents bases to remain, Survivor-like, as the last person on the island,” Ballot PA chair David Thornburgh writes in a CNN op-ed. “The base-driven dynamic does not bode well for representative government.” Candidates should be casting wider nets, and opening up PA’s closed primaries to a million-plus nonaligned voters (many of whom hold more moderate views) would help to do that. That’s why we’re pushing for bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by PA Sens. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Maria Collett (D-Bucks) that would enable them to vote on either the Republican or Democrat ballot in primary elections.
  • “The right and smart thing to do”: Thornburgh talks up open primaries in a Monday address to the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg. And PennLive columnist John Baer calls PA’s closed-primary system in need of repair.”
  • The doom spiral of pernicious polarization: The U.S. is dangerously polarized, Yascha Mounk writes in The Atlantic. But the polarization is ideological, not ethnic or religious. Ideological polarization is less intractable and less dangerous, and open primaries could help ease it. 
  • Your two cents: Sign the Ballot PA petition urging the General Assembly to repeal closed primaries.
Ward Committee elections in Philly: Illegal electioneering; too few candidates

While the top of the May 17 ballot attracted nationwide attention, some Philly poll workers were understandably more focused on one race at the bottom of it—the City Committee slot that they were running for themselves. It’s not uncommon for poll workers to double as Committeepeople, and every time Committee slots are on the ballot, the City Commissioners, the DA and C70 get complaints about poll workers campaigning for themselves from behind the desk and even in the voting booth. An Inquirer editorial is calling for a change in state law to prohibit candidates from also working the polls. We agree. It’s true that poll workers have been in short supply lately, but the status quo simply invites potential abuse.
  • 6,218: That’s the number of R and D Ward Committee slots on the May 17 ballot in Philly. But in many divisions there weren’t any Committee candidates on the ballot, and in some of them, would-be Committeepeople mounted write-in campaigns. Those can be won with as few as one vote (the candidate’s own!) while it takes 10 signatures to get your name on the ballot. Is that fair? PA Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) thinks not; he has a bill that would require write-in candidates to receive as many votes to win the post as they would need signatures to get on the ballot in the first place.
  • June 6: That’s the day when the newly elected Committeepeople will meet to elect their Ward leaders. Philadelphia 3.0 has a preview of the meetings, and Open Wards Philadelphia is working toward a more open, accessible, and democratic ward system.
Caught Our Eye
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City Hall Roll Call
C70 proudly sponsors City Hall Roll Call, a weekly summary of City Council’s Stated Meetings by Lauren Vidas, an election lawyer, and government relations specialist.
On our radar
PA Business Leaders for Free and Fair Elections: Businesses, institutions and nonprofits in Philly and around the country announced their support for the unfettered right to vote as changes are being proposed to voting laws in Harrisburg. Read their statement.
Tightening ethics rules: C70 submitted written testimony Monday in support of bills before City Council that would close a campaign-finance-law loophole involving candidate spending on vendors, strengthen regulations affecting candidates who fund their own campaigns and expand whistleblower protection related to Ethics Board inquiries.
Round two: The retrial of 2nd District Council member Kenyatta Johnson, his wife, Dawn Chavous, and two other defendants on bribery charges has been scheduled to begin in U.S. District Court on Sept. 28. Their first trial ended with a deadlocked jury in April.
Your tax dollars at work: Harrisburg Republicans signed a contract to extend their “audit” of PA’s 2020 presidential election through November, the Associated Press reports. No dollar figure was given; the original contract cost taxpayers $485,000.
Actual election fraud: A Franklin County Democratic voter was given a GOP ballot on May 17 and told that the D primary was on another day, the Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, MD reports
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