Pa. Primary Election Held Amid Protests, COVID-19 Pandemic Poses Difficult Task for Election Officials
Pennsylvania election officials are bracing for an uncertain and potentially chaotic day (and night) on Tuesday, as voters throughout the Commonwealth look to cast their ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic and protests over the death of George Floyd that have sparked confrontations with law enforcement.

The combination of the global pandemic and the civil unrest in municipalities across the state have created a "perfect storm" of uncertainty around the election. The election was already delayed by almost two months, and social distancing and other mitigation efforts to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus have forced polling locations to consolidate. And with growing concerns over exposure, many experienced poll workers are not returning to their posts, forcing the state to lower its requirements related to the minimum number of workers at each polling place. In addition, state officials have made an effort to promote mail-in ballots to help limit in-person voting, but as of last night, reports were that thousands of voters who requested mail-in ballots still haven’t received them.

Add to the already difficult situation of operating an election during a pandemic, recent protests in cities throughout the state, some of which have turned violent, have made the situation even more chaotic and unpredictable.

Late Monday night, on the eve of the primary election, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order extending the deadline for county election offices in Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties to receive mail-in ballots that are postmarked by 8:00 p.m. Tuesday night. These mail-in ballots must be received by those counties' election offices by 5:00 p.m. on June 9, 2020.

Pennsylvania Republican leaders quickly challenged the governor's actions, saying the order is unconstitutional and erodes the public’s trust in the election process. Gov. Wolf defended the order, saying the six counties that were included are under specific emergency declarations. According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees the state's elections, nearly 400,000 mail-in and absentee ballot requests had been processed in the six counties but were still not returned to their county election office.

Tuesday's primary is Pennsylvania’s first test since lawmakers expanded mail-in ballot options to all voters last fall, before the COVID-19 pandemic expanded interest in absentee voting. In total, eight states plus Washington D.C. will hold primaries on Tuesday. All of them have experienced a surge in interest in mail-in balloting, and are facing similar challenges related to COVID-19 and growing civil unrest.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 612 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 72,894. In addition, 5,667 Pennsylvanians have died from complications from the virus. To date, there have been nearly 400,000 negative cases across the state.

Daily COVID-19 update for Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health reported 36,350 cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 2,258 deaths, including probable cases, by Tuesday afternoon. There have been 6,176 hospitalizations and 1,583 ICU admissions.
Other News...
Pa.'s revenues dealt another blow to close out May. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue announced more economic bad news this week as the state's tax revenues plummeted by nearly $440 million below estimates for the month of May. The 17 percent drop in revenue is primarily due to the continued economic stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

New scam targets WIC program participants. The Pennsylvania Department of Health is warning residents who participate in the state's supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children, also know as WIC, to be on alert for a new scam targeting their personal information. The new phone scam is allegedly asking participants for bank account information to deposit funds. State officials said that although WIC clinics do perform eligibility determinations, they never call participants to request personal information.

Universal testing in Pa. nursing homes is underway as part of new strategy to curb cases. Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health said on Monday that at least 45 nursing homes across the state have tested patients and staff as part the state’s strategy for universal testing in nursing homes. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the goal is to test at least 1,900 facilities statewide, but the early focus will be on those facilities that have had reported outbreaks of COVID-19.

Federal court rejects Pa.'s appeal, allows for campaign donations by state casinos. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an appeal by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to overturn a ruling by a federal judge in 2018 that allows for the state's casinos to make campaign donations to elected officials. The initial ruling in 2018, by federal Judge Sylvia Rambo, found the ban on casino campaign contributions as unconstitutional.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations and nonprofit consulting assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

You can also visit the McNees COVID-19 Article & Resource Page for more information on various legal and political issues created by the novel coronavirus.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit .

The Senate stands in recess until the call of the President Pro Tempore.

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The House stands adjourned until Monday, June 8, 2020 at 1:00 p.m.

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