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December 22, 2022

A rare bipartisan drive at federal election reform

If Congress fails to pass the $1.7-trillion omnibus spending bill, it won’t be because of opposition to Electoral Count Act reform. Crafted by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) with the approval of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the measure would not only make plain the Vice President’s ceremonial role in counting electoral votes, but (perhaps more important) would also strengthen the role of governors in certifying their states’ electoral votes and raise the threshold for congressional objections to a state’s electoral slate from one member of each House to 20 percent of the members. 

Seventy says: Midterm results across the country could indicate that the election denialism fever is breaking, but it remains critical to install reforms that protect the integrity of elections and hold both major parties accountable to honoring election results and for upholding democratic norms.

Committee of Seventy CEO Al Schmidt made multiple trips to Congress to lobby for reforms to the Electoral Count Act. A final vote is expected soon.

PA House special elections: The Speakers have spoken; here comes the judge

The special-election standoff in the State House had its day in court Wednesday, when lawyers for the two sides met with Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer and a mediator, but couldn’t agree on a date for the special elections to replace soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Summer Lee and incoming Lt. Gov. Austin Davis. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) scheduled them for Feb. 7 after she had herself sworn in as Speaker earlier this month, while the last session’s Speaker, Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), scheduled them for May 16 (the day of the statewide primary) after he had himself sworn in again. Judge Cohn Jubelirer told the lawyers she’d have a decision “as quickly as possible.” Republicans will take the reins with a 101-99 majority when the House reconvenes on Jan. 3, and they’re expected to retain control until the special elections in dispute are held.

Another wrinkle: PA Rep. Lynda Schenkel-Culver (R-Northumberland) is the GOP’s nominee in a Jan. 31 special election for the vacant seat in the deep-red 27th State Senate district. Her likely victory would create another House vacancy, dropping the Republican majority to 100-99. If this were followed by a Democratic victory in the Feb. 7 special election to fill the late Rep. Tony DeLuca’s seat, the House would be deadlocked at 100 seats apiece.

Why does the GOP want the gavel? Incoming governor Josh Shapiro won’t be able to veto proposed amendments to the state constitution, and Republicans want to enshrine Voter ID in it. Another amendment reportedly being considered would make it easier for the Legislature to override administration regulations, which would have far reaching consequences on a variety of issues.

Finding compromise? Former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel asserts in a PennLive op-ed that the near even split in the state House should compel party leaders to work together if they want to get anything done. We agree, but unwinding the power struggle won’t be easy.

Caught Our Eye

Land doesn’t vote. Voters do. This Inquirer map showing “where voters live reveals how important the swing suburbs and exurbs actually are: Pennsylvania’s vast rural precincts are heavily Republican and sparsely populated, but roughly as influential taken together as cities. But cities aren’t monoliths either. Hundreds of thousands of Republicans live in cities, and their votes add up, too.”

On Our Radar

New candidate for Speaker: PA Rep. Valerie Gaydos (R-Allegheny) says she’s running for Speaker, which follows reports that current Republican House leader Bryan Cutler isn’t seeking the job.

Wasteful recounts: Needless recounts not only undermine trust in elections but also expend public funds and election workers’ time, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette points out in an editorial decrying frivolous demands to recount the 2020 presidential election in Lycoming County.

Judge rules on election data: A Lycoming County judge ordered the PA Office of Open Records to release to litigants the clear-vote-cast record (raw data about votes, but not who cast them) from the 2020 general election in Lycoming County, but stayed the decision pending an appeal.


Advocacy Training: How to Run for School Boards

Wed., Jan. 4, 7-8 pm


PA Senator Art Haywood and Dr. Damary Bonilla-Rodriguez, School Board Director of the East Stroudsburg Area School District, present a virtual training on how to make positive change in your community by running for the local school board. Event partners include the Pennsylvania Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, the Pennsylvania Commission on Latino Affairs, Latino Victory Project and C70. Register.

Stabilizing Elections in PA & How Business Can Help

Mon., Jan. 9 12 noon-1 pm


The antiquated PA Election Code is burdened by conflicting provisions that need to be resolved as we head into the 2024 election cycle — and it’s time for action. Join Business for America PA to hear from county election officials about how we can create a more functional electoral system in the commonwealth. Speakers announced to date include Philadelphia City Commissioner Seth Bluestein and Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach. Register.

Get Involved

Need a last minute gift for someone? Civic engagement is the gift that keeps giving. Help engage Philadelphians ahead of critical elections for mayor and city council with the gift of a C70 membership this holiday season. Join us.

Seventy's membership program broadens, diversifies, and expands our community of champions of local democracy. Become a member and receive notification about Event signups, Annual Membership Impact Reports, C70 swag, and Invitations to members-only experiences and receptions, including a Meet-and-Greet with the Committee of Seventy’s CEO Al Schmidt.

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