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December 3, 2022

An unusual situation and uncertain start for the PA House

The GOP officially lost its 113-89 majority when the 2021-22 legislative session ended on Nov. 30, but just when Democrats will gain control is an open question. Their 102-101 majority will be trimmed by one seat due to veteran Allegheny County legislator Tony DeLuca’s posthumous reelection. And two more Democrats, Reps. Summer Lee and Austin Davis, who ran for reelection but also won higher office, will be resigning their state House seats in January. In the meantime, outgoing Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and likely incoming Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) will reportedly be meeting on Monday to discuss how to navigate this interim period.

Unnecessary “insurance policy”: If Lee and Davis hadn’t run for reelection to their PA House seats, the messiness at the start of this session would have been shorter lived. Spotlight PA called out the practice of incumbent officials being able to seek two jobs at the same time, which Seventy opposes. Candidates need not resign as they seek another post, but as C70 policy director Pat Christmas told the outlet: “Running for higher offices should still require taking a leap.”

And another thing: Until special elections are held to fill those seats, the residents in the affected districts have no representation in the PA House. And the candidates who’ll run in the special elections will be chosen behind closed doors by party leaders, not voters.

Election challenges: Controversy for no good reason

The Luzerne County Commissioners finally certified the county’s vote in the Nov. 8 election Wednesday—two days after the deadline and in the face of lawsuits compelling them to do so. The vote was 3-2. Elsewhere in PA, certifications in three other counties have been delayed even though no evidence of irregularities that could change any results has emerged. Meanwhile, The Inquirer reported last week that supporters of Sen. Doug Mastriano were “flooding” state courts with petitions seeking to force hand recounts of the gubernatorial election, which Attorney General Josh Shapiro won by almost 800,000 votes. The activists are leveraging an antiquated section of the state Election Code that allows just three voters in a precinct to request a recount if they suspect “fraud or error” occurred.

Possibility for reform? Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) told Spotlight PA, “If the law [allowing for recount petitions] continues to be abused this way, I think we need a legislative change to safeguard taxpayer dollars and ensure election workers aren’t wasting their time administering hand recounts of elections for which there is no evidence that any malfeasance occurred.”

Recount already in place: Beginning this year, all 67 PA counties will conduct “risk-limiting audits” of their election results to ensure accuracy. The PA Capital-Star explains the process.

Eye on City Hall

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.

Caught Our Eye

C70 CEO Al Schmidt joined The Daily Show's Desi Lydic to discuss how election deniers are harassing and intimidating election workers and how that could compromise future elections. Watch the clip.

On Our Radar

Bad bet: Former Fair Districts PA volunteer legislative director Patrick Beaty argues in the PA Capital-Star that the failure by Republicans to act on redistricting reform in 2018 was one of the reasons they lost control of the body four years later.

Where did Philly voters go? An Inquirer analysis finds that voter turnout in Philadelphia dropped for the third consecutive election, and that Philly’s decline was the largest of any PA county. Meanwhile, Spotlight PA reports that rejection of undated mail-in ballots impacted communities of color disproportionately.

The party’s over: A study by the democracy reform group Students for Open Primaries finds that two-thirds of 16-39-year-olds consider themselves politically independent, and 85% favor nonpartisan primaries.

Krasner misbehavin’? Inquirer “[Angry] Grammarian” columnist Jeffrey Barg says that the PA Constitution’s vague definition of an impeachable offense (“any misbehavior in office”) gave Harrisburg Republicans ample cover to impeach Philly’s district attorney simply because they disagree with his policies. Krasner’s trial is set to begin Jan. 18.

City Council’s new faces: The Philadelphia Citizen profiles new members Jimmy Harrity, Quetcy Lozada, Anthony Phillips and Sharon Vaughn.

And its new vacancy: At-large member Helen Gym resigned her seat and announced her mayoral candidacy.


Watch C70’s Anniversary Event: “Investing in Democracy”

On Nov. 21, Seventy held its 118th Anniversary Event at the National Constitution Center. The program featured a conversation between investor, philanthropist and TV host David Rubenstein and MSNBC’s Ali Velshi. Expressing deep gratitude to our sponsors and guests for their support of Seventy’s nonpartisan mission for better government in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. Watch the recording.

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