April 30, 2021
May 18 primary: Everybody can vote! (On ballot questions, that is)

Polls will be open for in-person voting a week from Tuesday, and for the registered voters using mail-in ballots (741,000 as of Monday), drop boxes and a few satellite election offices are available in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. Philly officials are also holding ballot drop-off events at other locations around town through May 17. If you haven’t applied for a mail-in ballot but plan to do so, the deadline is Tuesday, May 11. When you receive your ballot, do not mail it: The USPS cannot guarantee that it will arrive by the time polls close on May 18 and postmarks do not count. That’s the “how.”

As for the “what,” there are scores of races for local offices and judicial seats across the region but only registered Democrats and Republicans are allowed to vote in them. Pennsylvania remains one of only nine states to close its primary elections to unaffiliated and third-party voters. That’s 1.2M Pennsylvanians who can vote only on the statewide and local questions on the primary ballot. These voters pay for primaries with their taxes and should be able to vote in them. Learn more from Open Primaries PA.
  • Vote smart: Build your own ballot with C70’s BYOBallot Tool. Type in your address and you’ll find information on candidates and ballot questions you’ll be voting on in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties. Hear from candidates for city and suburban judicial and political offices in Studio C70 interviews. 
  • How to choose judges: The Philadelphia Bar Association makes the case for using their ratings. WHYY and the Philadelphia Citizen have useful judicial-election guides. And WHYY also has one for suburban judicial elections.
  • For poll workers: C70 is offering info sessions and additional resources. Learn more.
General Assembly redistricting: The team’s in place

The PA General Assembly’s four leaders failed to agree on any of the 60 + candidates for the tie-breaking fifth slot on the Legislative Redistricting Commission, which will draw the state legislative districts used for the next 10 years. But fortunately, the PA Supreme Court made the pick quickly, choosing former law professor and Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg for the post. We at C70 and Draw the Lines think it’s a good choice. Nordenberg has shown himself to be intensely fair, detailed, and outcomes-driven. We are confident that Mark will play this by the book—working to give Pennsylvanians state House and Senate maps that don't repeat the gerrymanders we experienced in the last cycle. His reputation for fairness and sober-minded, fact-based leadership is exactly what the commission requires. We expect him to deliver again in this season of service. Read our full statement.
  • Are PA’s current state maps gerrymandered? It depends on how you measure them, according to this Spotlight PA report.
  • This one might be: Candidates in the May 18 special election in state Senate District 48 debated gerrymandering at a recent forum. It hits home: The district, which encompasses Lebanon County and parts of Dauphin and York counties, is connected across the Susquehanna River by a narrow sliver of land. See this report from Harrisburg’s ABC27.
Philly Sheriff fallout continues with Council scrutiny and flawed contract

Earlier this year, we highlighted again Seventy's 2009 Needless Jobs report calling for the elimination of city row offices after Sheriff Rochelle Bilal was accused of financial impropriety, tolerating abuse of employees and retaliating against employees who spoke up about it. We also mentioned that Bilal’s predecessor, Jewell Williams, lost his reelection bid amid charges of sexual harassment and that John Green, the sheriff elected prior to Williams, is currently serving a prison term for bribery. Now there are concerns over costs, fairness and perhaps legal violations stemming from the office’s awarding of a contract to move Sheriff sales of tax- and mortgage-foreclosed properties entirely online. Last week, a judge stepped in and stopped all Sheriff sales until September. It remains to see what long-term reform might be possible for the beleaguered office.
  • Another idea: In a Philadelphia Citizen post, Philly election lawyer Lauren Vidas acknowledges that there might not be the political will to abolish the office but another option could be to install the Office of Inspector General permanently in the Charter and expand its purview to all city offices, not just those under the direction of the mayor.
Caught our eye
Do you live in a political bubble? Type in your address and The New York Times will tell you the percentages of Rs and Ds in your area.
On our radar
Don’t forget: Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan praises WITF, Harrisburg’s NPR station, for “regularly reminding” its audience of the PA lawmakers who opposed certifying the state’s 2020 presidential election results.
Lobbying reform...but first: Spotlight PA takes note PA Senate President Pro Tem Jake Corman’s plan to attend a lavish fundraiser at an Arizona golf course organized by a Harrisburg firm that runs campaigns, then lobbies the officials it helped elect. Corman and other GOP leaders plan to introduce a package of bills that would rein in the practice.
Mistakes have consequences: The PA House State Government Committee approved a measure that would strip the Department of State of its duty to devise wording for statewide ballot questions, and to advertise them. This comes in the wake of DOS’s failure to advertise the constitutional amendment on child sex abuse and its controversial wording of the amendment on gubernatorial emergency declarations.
Have recent election-related bills gone too far? Governing is concerned that components of some of the GOP-sponsored bills making changes in state election laws could enable legislative majorities to go beyond changing election policy to interfering in the way counties administer elections.
Closed Primary Elections: A Closer Look at Pennsylvania
Fri., May 7, 6 pm (Now!)

Join the West Chester University Student Government Association for a statewide panel discussion of primary-election reform in Pennsylvania, one of only nine states to close all of its primaries to 1.2M unaffiliated and third-party voters. With younger voters driving the growing number of independents across the country, this promises to be a fascinating discussion based in Pennsylvania. Panelists include T.J. Rooney, former chair of PA Democratic Party; Alan Novak, former chair of PA Republican Party; Jennifer Bullock, director of Independent Pennsylvanians; and Jeremy Gruber, SVP of Open Primaries. 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.
Open Primaries Virtual Discussion: A progressive Democrat and a conservative Republican make the case for open primaries
Tues., May 11, 1 pm

Join Open Primaries and Bridge Alliance for an exciting discussion featuring retired South Dakota businessman Joe Kirby and Maine State Senator Chloe Maxmin. Joe’s a fourth generation conservative Republican and Chloe, a progressive Democrat, is the youngest female state senator in Maine’s history.  Yet both are passionate advocates for competition, voter mobility, and open primaries. Register.
Breaking Down Barriers: Women’s Way Annual Celebration
Thurs., May 13, 5:30-6:30 pm

Join Women’s Way virtually for their 43rd Annual Celebration: Breaking Down Barriers, as they honor women across the nation whose work reflects a commitment to the values of equity and justice. This year’s Lucretia Mott Honoree is Aimee Allison, for her work as the founder and president of She the People, a national network elevating the voice and power of women of color. Featuring performances by Drum Like A Lady and Project Capoeira, inspiring stories, and keynote speeches from our honorees, this event will raise crucial funds to support the work of Women’s Way in the movement towards gender equity. Learn more.
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