April 23, 2021
Drawing the lines for real: The machinery begins to kick in

As Pennsylvania prepares for Census redistricting data to be released this fall, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which handles redistricting for the PA General Assembly, announced candidate interviews for the Commission’s fifth slot. This member will also chair the Commission and would break any ties—a likely occurrence, since the four Commission members already in place are the Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. They might not agree on a candidate for the fifth slot, either, and if they can’t it would be up to the State Supreme Court to decide. One of the candidates is C70 CEO David Thornburgh, who also oversees Draw the Lines. The interviews are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, and you can stream them live, starting at 1 pm Monday and 9 am Tuesday. You can also watch later on the PA Redistricting website.
  • Voteswagon heads west: The Great Pennsylvania 2021 Voteswagon Tour to drum up support for fair redistricting will visit Pittsburgh, Indiana, Greensburg, Stackhouse Park near Johnstown, and Mars’ Flying Saucer (that’s in Mars, PA) on Monday and Tuesday. Previous tour stops, in eastern and central PA, have received plenty of positive media coverage.
May 18 Primary: Ballots are arriving; here’s what to do now

Voters who requested mail-in ballots have begun to receive them for the primary election. So what to do with them? Philly has opened 14 drop boxes, and you can also drop off your ballot (as well as register to vote, request a mail-in ballot, fill it out and return in one stop at the City Commissioners Office in City Hall). Montgomery County voters will have 11 drop-box options, Chester County voters 13, and Bucks County will open three on May 3. (Delco will announce their options next week.) And don’t forget to place your ballot in the secrecy envelope you’ll receive with it (no “naked ballots”!) and seal it. Then sign and date the voter declaration on the outside of the envelope. If you haven’t applied for a ballot, you have until Tuesday, May 11 (5 pm) to request it. But don’t wait because your ballot must be back at your county’s board of elections by 8 pm on May 18.
  • Vote smart: Build your own ballot with C70’s Online Ballot Tool. Type in your address and you’ll find information on all the candidates and ballot questions you’ll be voting on in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.
  • Who’s running in all those judicial races? WHYY and the Philadelphia Citizen have useful judicial-election guides, and be sure to check the PA Bar Association and Philadelphia Bar Association for their candidate ratings.  
  • Poll workers wanted: Poll workers are needed for safe, in-person voting on Election Day. They are democracy's essential workers! C70 is also offering info sessions and additional resources. Learn more.
  • And don’t forget: Check your registration, and if needed register or update your information—only R’s & D’s can vote on candidates in PA's closed primary elections. The deadline is May 3.
An ‘off-year’ election? Not for local officials, who need help

The eyes of the nation might no longer be on PA election officials but as the PA Capital-Star reports, they still have a huge task in front them in 2021, with some 600,000 mail-in ballots to process (so far) and an in-person election to conduct on May 18. They need legislative help from Harrisburg—particularly time before election day to process those ballots, which current law doesn’t give them. Both Rs and Ds are open to changing that, but that’s a rare point of agreement. Without a veto-proof majority in the Legislature, any new law will require some degree of bipartisan support. It remains unclear how this will play out, but there's some presumption that Republicans want new voter ID and signature requirements. Whether Gov. Wolf would go along could depend on the policy details and what major, voter-access reforms would be included. County officials would prefer legislation focused specifically on ballot processing and moving back the mail-in application deadline, which they find challenging. The big question is whether or not the GOP and Wolf can negotiate. House State Government Committee chair Seth Grove (R-York) told both the AP and the PA Capital-Star he wants to talk. Counties are the biggest losers if they don't.
  • More on pre-canvassing: PA’s Election Law Advisory Board will focus on specific recommendations around pre-canvassing on June 8. An annual report with the board's initial findings should be released during the summer.
Caught our eye
Ed Helms is out with a new movie to Save the Gerrymanders. See the trailer.
Get involved
Take a Survey on Philly Politics
Do you have time for a brief survey (less than nine minutes) on your engagement with Philly local politics, with a focus on ranked-choice voting? Researchers at Drexel and Georgetown universities are doing a study. Three respondents, chosen at random, will win $100 Amazon gift cards. Take the survey.
On our radar
New caucus: Reps. Jared Solomon (D-Phila.) and Tom Mehoffie (R-Dauphin) are spearheading a PA One Caucus in the State House to build bridges between the parties and push for legislative reform.
Can “final-five voting” cure our sick politics? A proposal to combine nonpartisan open primaries with the top-five finishers (regardless of party) advancing to a general election conducted with ranked-choice voting meets the approval of RealClearPolitics columnist A.B. Stoddard.
Good news for local news: Axios reports that the Associated Press is expanding its local news experiment called StoryShare. There are now more than 130 newsrooms participating in the program in Colorado, Upstate New York, Oregon, New England, West Virginia, and Illinois.
Bad news for local news: Layoffs are likely to loom at the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and the other Tribune newspapers—including Allentown’s Morning Call—as the hedge fund Alden Global Capital emerged as the only bidder for the chain.
Officially on board: PA Senate voted unanimously to put former Treasurer Joe Torsella back on the board of the troubled PA Public School Employees Retirement System. Torsella will serve as Gov. Tom Wolf’s representative on the body that oversees the $64 billion in investments to make current and future retirement payments to more than 600,000 teachers, janitors, and principals.
The election’s over! The Supreme Court dismissed the final challenge to the 2020 presidential election in PA, rejecting an appeal to a failed challenge to the mail-in ballot deadlines by Republican congressional candidate Jim Bognet.
Civic Bootcamp: A Virtual Five-Week Series
Tuesdays, April 27 – May 25, 6-7 pm

Join PA Sen. Art Haywood and rotating moderators from the Committee of Seventy, Draw the Lines, Fair Districts PA and Arcadia university for five Tuesday-evening sessions aimed at putting folks into civic “shape.” Sessions include Stretching the Personal into the Political; Exercising Your Power in Government; Strengthen Your Civic Muscle Through Community; Coalition Building to Strengthen Civic Capacity; and A Case in Action - Redistricting in PA. Register at Senatorheaywood.com/haywoodacademy or by calling 215-242-8171
LWV of Philadelphia Antiracism Series
Tues., April 27, 5:30-7 pm

Join the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia for another Antiracism Series Event! We'll be discussing how to engage young black and brown voters and bridging the gap between POC and elected officials. Hear from our panel of young activists featuring Kamryn Davis, Miarah Palmer, and Brooklynn Jones moderated by Makani Thornhill. Register.
The May Primary: A Spotlight PA Guide to the Judicial Candidates and Ballot Questions
Tues., May 4, 5 pm

This May, Registered Democrats and Republicans will head to the polls to consider judicial candidates — including one for the state Supreme Court — while all registered PA voters (that includes you, independents and minority-party members!) will be asked to consider four ballot questions---two of them, pertaining to Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency powers, have caused a stir during the pandemic. Join Spotlight PA deputy editor Sarah Anne Hughes and WHYY politics reporter Katie Meyer as they break down what you need to know before you vote. Plus, they’ll answer your questions. Register.
Philadelphia District Attorney Debate
Tues., May 5, 7 pm
KYW Newsradio, NBC10, Telemundo62 and streaming on Audacity

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and former Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega, Krasner’s opponent in the May 18 Democratic primary, square off in a campaign debate at KYW’s Philadelphia studios. KYW Newsradio crime-and-justice reporter Kristen Johanson, community-affairs reporter Cherri Gregg, and NBC10 political reporter Lauren Mayk pose questions. NBC10 anchor Jacqueline London is the moderator. Stream on Audacity.
Citizen Book Club: Millennials Are Not the Problem
Thurs., May 6, 7 pm

Join Philadelphia Citizen co-founder Larry Platt for an evening with journalist (and millennial) Jill Filopovic, author of OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind. Filopovich shows that millennials are not the avocado-toast-eating snowflakes of boomer outrage fantasies. She upends dated assumptions with revelatory data and paints a revealing portrait of America’s most educated, most engaged, yet least wealthy generation. Register.
Civic Saturday: Voice Your Vote
May 8, 11 am-12 noon

Join emerging civic leaders for original music, poetry, and discussion about the upcoming election on May 18. Learn who and what are on the ballot and how you can make an immediate impact in your community by voicing your vote. This gathering is part of a nation-wide movement of citizenship hosted by CitizenUniversity's Civic Saturday Program, in partnership with BetterCivics, RECPhilly and CampusPhilly. Register.
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