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October 1, 2022

Philly triples number of languages supported in elections

Philadelphia's City Commissioners voted unanimously this week to create new voter guides, polling-place signs and ballot information in Russian, Vietnamese, Khmer, Arabic, Haitian Creole and Portuguese, a step that should ease voting access for thousands of city residents. The move was initiated by Commissioner Seth Bluestein after discussions with community advocates, many of which have been pressing for expanded language services for years. All election information is already available in Spanish and Chinese due to population thresholds in federal law. Advocates see the expansion as an important first step for the numerous other language communities across the city. As veteran activist Andy Toy told The Inquirer: “If you wanted to make this a more representative city, one of the steps is to have more people voting.”

Speaking of voting: Nov. 8 is less than six weeks away! Are you registered? Deadline is Oct. 24. Want to vote by mail? Application deadline is Nov. 1. But apply as early as you can because the return deadline is 8 pm on Election Day, and postmarks won’t be honored. For information about the candidates and questions on your ballot, check out C70’s nonpartisan Voter Guide, which will soon be available in 12 languages.

Candidates speak: Watch Studio C70 candidate interviews on our Facebook page. Included: Students from Center City’s Constitution High School interview U.S. Rep. Mary Kay Scanlon (D-Philadelphia, Delaware County).

Kenyatta Johnson retrial: Same script, new jury

Testimony began Friday in the second federal trial of 2nd District City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, Dawn Chavous, who are charged with accepting bribes in the form of a $67,000 consulting contract to Ms.Chavous from individuals seeking Johnson’s help with properties in his district. “It was all about access to her husband,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dubnoff said during the first trial, in April. As for round two: “I’m expecting almost exactly the same trial,” Johnson’s attorney, Patrick Egan, told WHYY.

Council prerogative is back on trial: The practice of City Council deferring to district members on land-use decisions within their districts has led to the convictions of six council members since 1981. As we said after the first trial, finding a solution won’t be simple. But with the 2023 city council and mayoral elections approaching, now is the time to begin in earnest a public discussion over how land is used in Philadelphia, and who has the power to make decisions.

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

WeVote is C70’s campaign to galvanize the business and nonprofit communities, media partners and government and religious institutions to promote a culture of voting and civic participation in their communities. Learn more.

On Our Radar

Hurry up and wait: Delays in sending out Philly’s mail-in ballots because of the recently called special elections for City Council will give voters and election officials a slim margin for error in getting them back by Nov. 8. And the inability of election officials to count any mail-in ballots before Nov. 8 will ensure a delay in posting results, and that is sure to be “exploited by people who want to undermine confidence in the process,” C70 CEO Al Schmidt told the Associated Press.

Will new maps shake up Harrisburg? The Associated Press looks at how the redrawn General Assembly maps might affect the body’s makeup when the new session begins in January. But one thing is certain: 84 of the 203 House seats and seven in the Senate won’t change because they’re uncontested.

Ballot curing OK’d (for now): A Commonwealth Court judge ruled Thursday that PA counties may allow mail-in voters to correct minor errors on their ballots. The Republican National Committee cited inconsistencies among counties in allowing ballot curing in its lawsuit to stop the practice and The Inquirer reports that the RNC is weighing an appeal.

Back to Harrisburg (for now): Cherelle Parker, who resigned her seat on City Council to run for mayor next year, has registered as a lobbyist in Harrisburg, where she served as a State Representative before winning her Council seat in 2015. The Inquirer reports that she did it because she needs a job.

Back to Court: The PA Capital Star reports that the Wolf administration refiled its suit against the General Assembly’s attempt to package five unrelated proposals into one Constitutional Amendment ballot question in Commonwealth Court after the PA Supreme Court refused to expedite it. Spotlight PA has background on the amendment controversy.


Securing Your Vote: Pennsylvania’s 2022 Election

Tues., Oct. 11, 12 noon | Zoom

Join Pitt Cyber and Pitt’s Institute of Politics for a discussion about Pennsylvania’s election administration and the challenges posed by disinformation to our elections. Featuring: Leigh Chapman, Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth; Lara Putnam, professor of history and Pitt Disinformation Lab researcher; and C70 CEO Al Schmidt. Pitt Cyber founding director David Hickton is the moderator. Register.

Fix Harrisburg Fall Forum

Wed., Oct. 12, 7 - 8:30 pm | Zoom

Why did Fair Districts PA and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania launch the #FixHarrisburg campaign? What change is possible? How can you help to get bipartisan bills most Pennsylvanians actually want to see enacted out of the committees where they’re stuck because powerful committee chairs sit on them? Find out at the Fix Harrisburg Fall Forum.

Democracy and Your Bottom Line: Why a Strong Democracy Matters for Business

Wed., Oct. 12, 5:30-7:30 pm | Independence Blue Cross, 1901 Market St, 23rd Fl

Join the Committee of Seventy and Leadership Now Project for a conversation with business leaders and former public servants on the important role businesses play in democracy. The program will be followed by a cocktail reception for guests and panelists to connect. The conversation will be moderated by Elizabeth Vale, Senior Managing Director at IntraFi & Former Executive Director of the White House Business Council. Panelists include Greg Deavens, President & CEO, Independence Blue Cross; Sue Jacobson, Chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and President of Jacobson Strategic Communications; and C70 CEO Al Schmidt. Register.

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