April 9, 2021
May primary: Poll workers get the vax

Philly officials responded to growing concerns about poll workers conducting the upcoming election without priority eligibility for COVID vaccinations. Along with those in the rest of PA, they’ll now be able to get their shots beginning April 12, five weeks before the May 18 primary. That’s great news for many reasons, one of them being that it could incentivize more people to sign up. Poll workers are needed in all counties! Check out C70’s resources for poll workers.  
Bad report card for PA’s Schools Employees Retirement Fund

News that the feds are probing PA’s under-performing Public Schools Employees Retirement System (PSERS) follows the PSERS board’s announcement of its own investigation. The Inquirer reports that the board has also been lawyering up. Details of the potential scandal remain unknown, but PSERS officials did admit to exaggerating profits from its investments in December, thereby saving some 256,000 active public-school employees from having to contribute more to the fund and leaving it to taxpayers to make up the difference. State Treasurer Stacy Garrity, an ex-officio member of the PSERS board, called the situation “extremely troubling.” But it’s not surprising. PSERS has a history of enriching the Wall Street money managers whose investment decisions have led to lackluster returns. And all the while, PSERS staffers ran up hefty air-fare and hotel bills around the world. Former State Treasurer Joe Torsella pushed for reform during his four years in office. Now it’s Garrity’s turn. She has said she’ll advocate for change as well, and she’s likely to have at least one ally on the PSERS board: Torsella, whom Gov. Wolf has nominated to be his representative on the board, with Garrity’s backing.
  • Fun facts: PSERS chief investment officer James Grossman is PA’s highest paid public official, weighing in at $474,037 in 2020. Grossman’s two assistants earned $390,242. Gov. Wolf’s 2020 salary, $201,729, ranked 109th.
Final call for Legislative Reapportionment Commission chair

The Great Pennsylvania 2021 Voteswagon Tour began Monday, with C70 CEO David Thornburgh visiting Conestoga, Duncannon, Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg, where he told CBS21: "These districts...don’t belong to the temporary elected representatives who happened to win an election here or an election there. These districts belong to and should represent the people of Pennsylvania and their communities." Harrisburg’s ABC station and the PA Capital Star also covered this leg of the trip, and Spotlight PA provided background on the state redistricting process. Next week, the Voteswagon will head up the Turnpike’s Northeast Extension. The first stop, on Monday: Clark’s Summit, PA, near Scranton, where the 113th House District completely surrounds the 114th. Here’s the full itinerary.
  • The LRC still wants you: Today, Friday, April 9, is the final day to apply for the critical fifth slot on the Legislative Reapportionment Committee, which will redraw state legislative districts. “The person in this role can be a bulwark against partisan influences that lead to gerrymandering, unequal representation, and the further decaying of our democracy,” Thornburgh writes in the Philadelphia Citizen.

Caught our eye
Gerrymandering threat map: Here’s an interactive state-by-state rundown on 2021 redistricting from Represent Us, a nonpartisan advocate for ending political corruption, extremism and gridlock.
On our radar
Why Kentucky just became the only red state to expand voting rights: The New York Times explores reasons why the GOP-dominated legislature and D governor were able to agree.
Hot major: Villanova University has seen a 37% increase in political-science majors since 2018, according to an Inquirer article that also profiles area college students who sought and won local offices.
Problem solved: Bucks County Congressman Ryan Fitzpatrick was named the GOP's co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, filling an opening left by the upcoming retirement of Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY). The co-chair of the 58-member group is Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ).
Address needed: The PA Supreme Court ruled that voters who sign candidate nominating petitions must include the address where they're registered, overturning a five-year precedent and knocking a Philly judicial candidate off the ballot.
Noblesse oblige: “Billionaires push to derail hedge fund takeover of local newspapers,”Axios notes in a summary of ongoing efforts to keep the Tribune papers (including Allentown’s Morning Call) away from the Alden Global private-equity firm. An earlier Axios article points to West Coast tech and venture-capital titans who have rescued the Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, The Atlantic and The Washington Post.
Commonwealth Court Candidate Forum
Mon., April 19, 6:30-8 PM

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is partnering with C70 and other organizations around the state for forums with the candidates for Pennsylvania's appellate courts. (Watch the earlier forums with Supreme and Superior Court candidates.) Other sponsoring organizations include the Dauphin County Library System, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania,  the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Allegheny County Bar Association and the Philadelphia Bar Association. Register for the Commonwealth Court forum.
R Street Webinar: Exploring Electoral Innovation: Righting Electoral Dysfunction with Healthy Competition
Tues., April 13, 12 pm

In the wake of the 2020 election, many ideas have been proposed to reform the electoral process, and some have actually passed via ballot measure. In Alaska, Ballot Measure 2, the “Top-Four Ranked-Choice Voting and Campaign Finance Laws Initiative,” implemented multiple reforms to the state’s primary and general election processes. But will this initiative make much of a difference? How might we expect legislators’ behavior to change in response? Jonathan Bydlak, of the R Street Institute talks about the potentially significant changes set in motion by the initiative with Katherine Gehl, author of “The Politics Industry” and the founder of The Institute for Political Innovation, and Scott Kendall, the creator of Alaska Ballot Measure 2. Register.
Regional Forums: End Prison Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania
March 22-April 17

People in prison aren’t allowed to vote, yet the Census counts them in the areas they’re imprisoned, not the areas they come from. At the forums, individuals and family members directly affected by mass incarceration and loss of representation will share their stories, while speakers from host organizations provide background to put those stories into context. Co-hosts: Decarceration Bloc; Free the Ballot; Straight Ahead!; Abolitionist Law Center; Fair Districts PA; League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania; PA Council of Churches Advocacy; and the ACLU of Pennsylvania. For a preview, watch a live-streamed forum hosted by some of the same organizations on January 6, 2021. Register.
Capital Live; Fighting Misinformation in Philadelphia
Tues., April 20, 5 pm

With the continued decline in local news across Pennsylvania, partisan groups are taking advantage by launching efforts that mimic traditional news operations but have undisclosed or disguised political agendas. Those efforts spread more quickly than ever across social media. Join Spotlight PA Editor in Chief Christopher Baxter for a conversation with journalists and community activists about the negative effects of misinformation, how to detect it, and how to fight back against it. RSVP.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Candidate Forums
April 20 - 22

Philly committee people are encouraged to join Open Wards Philadelphia for a series of forums to meet candidates running for Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia. Candidates will join for 15-minute segments across three evenings: Tuesday, April 20, Wednesday, April 21, and Thursday, April 22 to introduce themselves and field questions over Zoom. Register. 
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