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February 03, 2023

May 16 Philly primary: Tech upgrade coming to a polling place near you

The City Commissioners showed off their new electronic poll books this week with a promise that the elimination of their cumbersome paper predecessors will make the tasks of checking in voters easier while shortening waiting times for voters. It should also make human error less likely, and instantly flag voters who had been issued a mail-in ballot or are at the wrong precinct. With poll workers staffing nearly 1,700 precincts for the May primary, there may still be a few wrinkles, but “at the end of the day, this is going to make things smoother for everybody,” C70 Chief Policy Officer Pat Christmas told KYW Newsradio. Stay tuned for opportunities for supplemental training on the new e-poll books, in addition to the poll worker trainings we host each cycle.

First inklings of mayoral strength: Philly candidates had to file their 2022 campaign-finance reports by Tuesday, providing the first solid look at their war chests for the primary. Allan Domb is out in front after having personally lent $5 million to his campaign, but it’s still early, and the super PACs, organized labor and grassroots support will also be major factors through the spring.

Council candidates from A (Ahmad) to Z (Zhukov): Forty-six Philadelphians have declared their candidacies for City Council in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Stay tuned for C70’s Interactive Vote Guide covering local candidates across the region and our nonpartisan WeVote resources, including our live streamed interviews with the Council candidates and more.

Special elections and the Speaker’s future

The rules workgroup hasn’t said when it’ll offer proposals for new rules, and the House isn’t in session in any case. But Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) says he might reconvene it “soon,” the Associated Press reports. And when he does, the future of his speakership may be uncertain. House Democrats are likely to secure a majority after Tuesday’s three Allegheny County special elections, and Democratic floor leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) has said she’d be “honored” to accept the post.

And the constitutional amendments? None will appear on the May 16 primary ballot because the deadline has passed for the House to approve the PA Senate’s controversial amendment package. It’s unlikely that the Democratic-leaning House will approve the voter ID and regulatory override measures that the Republican-controlled Senate bundled with the amendment that would open a two-year lawsuit window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. So when both Houses are back in session, one side will have to blink if anything is to get onto the November ballot.

Eye on City Hall

Caught Our Eye

Who gave how much to whom? The Philadelphia Board of Ethics and the PHLInnovation CityGeo team have launched an interactive dashboard for the City’s campaign finance data.

On Our Radar

Rules reform against sexual harassment: SEIU staffer Andi Perez electrified last week’s public hearing on legislative-rules reform with her charge that she couldn’t press her sexual-harassment complaint against an unnamed lawmaker because House rules don’t allow anyone but legislative employees to do so.

Sheriff back in the news: The Inquirer reports that a) Philly Sheriff Rochelle Bilal’s chief legal officer, Undersheriff Tariq El-Shabazz, moonlighted as a defense lawyer for accused criminals in city courts, apparently breaking ethics rules; and b) taxpayers picked up the tab for a Sheriff’s office holiday party at Chickie's & Pete's.

PA House shrinks again: Rep. Lynda Schlegal Culver (R-Northumberland) easily won a special election for a vacant PA Senate seat Tuesday. Her departure from the House reduces the Republican majority to 100-99. Next Tuesday’s Allegheny County special elections are likely to give the Democrats a 102-100 edge, but the GOP will likely regain Schlegal Culver’s seat when it’s filled on May 16.

Election bills: PA Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh) plans to introduce a vote-by-mail reform package that mandates drop boxes and enables ballot curing among other changes. And Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Phila) has proposed a special-elections overhaul that includes mandating automatic mail-in voting and requiring that seats remain vacant no longer than 90 days.

Shapiro’s olive branch: PA’s new Democratic governor is waging what The Washington Post calls a “GOP charm offensive,” stocking his cabinet with Republicans (including former C70 CEO Al Schmidt as Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth) and choosing Fox News for his first TV interview as governor.


Ready to Run, Philadelphia

Sun., Feb. 4, 8 am-5 pm

Thomas Jefferson University, East Falls Campus

Ready to Run Pennsylvania provides nonpartisan training to encourage women to run for government leadership positions. This day-long program is for women considering or recently deciding to run for political office, providing training and mentoring by campaign professionals, political experts and officeholders. Ready to Run is part of the National Training Network of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Register.

Philadelphia Citizen's Job Interviews with Mayoral Candidates

Feb. 7 and Feb. 21, 6:30-8:30 pm

Fitler Club Ballroom, 1 S. 24th St., Philadelphia

Join the Philadelphia Citizen for a series of public events where a panel of questioners with expertise in hiring—along with audience members—will interview the 2023 mayoral candidates using a job description created by the people of Philadelphia. Next up on Feb. 7: Allan Domb and Rebecca Rhynhart. Helen Gym and Cherelle Parker are scheduled for Feb. 21. RSVP.

How Harrisburg Works: Special Elections

Thurs., Feb. 9, 6 pm


Spotlight PA presents an online forum explaining special elections—how they work and why they matter—two days after the Allegheny County PA House special elections that are expected to give Democrats control of the body. The event will feature Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Phila) and Spotlight PA journalist Stephen Caruso. Rabb has proposed legislation to reform special elections. RSVP.

Democracy from the Ground Up: The Power of People-Centered Advocacy

Fri., Feb. 10, 9 am-5 pm

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

3501 Sansom St., Philadelphia

Penn Carey Law School’s daylong 42nd annual Edward V. Sparer Symposium will examine the fragile state of our democracy. Through interdisciplinary conversations with experts, activists and scholars from across the country, we will investigate alternative modes of organizing and how the power of the collective can protect our democracy from fracturing. The symposium will take the form of moderated panels on voting rights, state and local elections, labor organizing, and the future of organizing and legal strategy. Register.

Trusting the Vote Count: Post-Election Audits in PA

Tues., Feb. 14, 12 noon-1 pm


Join C70 in partnership with Verified Voting for a member-exclusive conversation with Pennsylvania’s Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions Jonathan Marks, and Verified Voting experts Pamela Smith and Mark Lindeman about risk-limiting audits and how RLAs can give PA voters confidence in the final election results. Sign up for C70's membership program to attend this and other important events on PA politics and elections.

Lunch With Lawmakers: Making Elections Work Better in PA

Fri., Feb. 17, 12-12:30 pm


Business for America Pennsylvania kicks off its 2023 “Lunch with Lawmakers” series—discussions featuring legislators with different perspectives at the intersection of business and politics—with State Reps. Jared Solomon (D - Philadelphia) and Jesse Topper (R - Bedford/Fulton), who’ll discuss voter ID, pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots, election-worker protection, standardizing election procedures among PA’s 67 counties, clarifying the rules concerning mail-in ballots, and ensuring election integrity. RSVP.

Knight Media Forum, 2023

Wed., Feb. 22, 9 am-5:30 pm

Thurs., Feb. 23, 9 am-2:15 pm


Join us at the 16th annual Knight Media Forum, the premier annual event for leaders in philanthropy, journalism and technology focusing on ways to overcome the financial and credibility challenges facing independent journalism, as reporters and editors provide citizens with accurate information and hold the powerful accountable. Together, we’ll learn from leading thinkers and practitioners, and foster efforts to strengthen, scale and sustain informed and engaged communities. Register.

Get Involved

Come Work With Us! The Committee of Seventy Is Hiring a Western PA

Youth Civics Coordinator

C70’s Youth Civics Program brings a comprehensive Elections & Voting curriculum to classrooms across the Commonwealth. Lessons are supported by project-based activities like a mock election, student-candidate interviews, a 17+ poll-worker program and deliberative democracy activities for K-8th graders. C70 has received funding from Allegheny County, and we are pursuing additional funding in Greene, Washington and Fayette Counties. Learn More.

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