(*This post was updated at 8:32 a.m. on 10/27/20 to clarify the process for mail-in balloting)
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
All right this is it, the strangest, angriest, and most divisive campaign in recent memory is into its final days. And while Pennsylvanians are used to being the center of electoral attention every four years, the Keystone State is especially in the national spotlight this year for reasons that have to do with both its importance as an Electoral College prize and the potential for sheer chaos that a late count of ballots could engender.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at three of the biggest issues as we head into the last seven days of Campaign 2020.
1. It’s all about the pandemic: While voters may be casting their mail-in or in-person ballots for or against Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Election Day, the specter of the COVID-19 pandemic inescapably hangs over everything. From how we’re voting to why we’re voting, the worst public health crisis in a century has permeated every nook and cranny of the campaign.
In an appearance in Lancaster County on Monday, Trump, who has spent the closing days of the campaign falsely claiming that the United States has higher case counts because it does more testing, pledged to have a vaccine available by year’s end, even if public health officials have cast doubt on that proposition, PennLive reported.
State health officials who say they’re having a hard time getting Pennsylvanians to participate in the contract-tracing efforts that are vital to containing the virus, stressed the collective responsibility that Keystone State residents have to fight the virus in the midst of a fall surge that has seen 3,073 new cases between Sunday and Monday.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine pushed back hard against White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who told CNN on Sunday that “we are not going to control the pandemic.”
“Despite the reporting you’ve seen we can control COVID-19. We need to use all the public health strategies in our toolbox — starting with containment, and moving to targeted mitigation, and therapeutics and vaccines,” Levine said. “We are committed to taking all steps to protect public health. What this pandemic has certainly shown is that we are all interconnected and need to work collectively and stand united.”
In a statement, Democratic nominee Joe Biden hammered Trump for his management of the pandemic, saying “Pennsylvanians have lost jobs and lost lives under President Trump’s failed leadership.”
In-state and national polling shows more people trust Biden than Trump to manage the pandemic.
Trump carried Pennsylvania by less than a percentage point in 2016. The COVID vote, particularly among seniors, looms large.
*2. Mail-in Balloting: Tuesday marks the deadline to both request a mail-in ballot or to vote in-person early at county election offices, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in an Oct. 20 statement issued by her office. *You can still put your completed ballot in a drop box, or vote by mail as long as it’s postmarked by Nov. 3. Thousands upon thousands of Pennsylvanians have taken advantage of mail-in balloting.
Boockvar has urged state residents not to waste any time casting those ballots.
“The election is rapidly approaching, so I urge all eligible Pennsylvania voters who want to vote early in person or by mail to apply today,” Boockvar said . “Voters have two options for casting their ballots before election day. They can either apply for and complete their mail ballot from the comfort of their home, or they can go in person to their county election office and apply for, vote and return their ballot all in one trip.”
Citing data compiled by the United States Elections Project, Newsweek reported last week that 1.46 million Pennsylvanians had mailed in their ballots as of October 23. More than 1 million of those belong to registered Democrats, and just 295,430 were cast by a registered Republican.
That early lead could become much closer, however. Because we know that Republicans are more inclined to vote in person than are Democrats.
The party split also reflects national trends, Newsweek reported, again citing United States Election Project data: “For the 19 states that report party registration, nearly 50 percent of ballots returned have been cast by Democrats, compared to the 27.5 percent by Republicans and 22.3 percent by those with no party affiliation.
3. The Court Fights, Oh the Court Fights: As we noted on Monday, Pennsylvania has found itself in the middle of a perfect storm of election-related litigation that’s only likely to accelerate in the wake of Election Day.
And here’s one case to pay particular attention to, now that the U.S. Senate has voted to turn Judge Amy Coney Barrett into U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett: The federal lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s extended deadline for counting mailed in ballots.
That claim came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state could count ballots as late as the Friday after Election Day as long as they had a Nov. 3 postmark.
That ruling, however, came from a deadlocked 4-4 high court.
Thus, you can bet dimes to doughnuts that the federal lawsuit, filed by onetime Trump White House apparatchik/current congressional candidate Jim Bognet, will find its way back to the newly Barrettified high court, where the outcome could be very, very different indeed.
4. Don’t forget the undercard (Bonus): The race for the White House is hoovering up all the headlines, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t pause to remind you that all 203 members of the House, and half the 50-member Senate, are up for reelection this year.
The races there are intensely competitive, and Democrats have a decent shot at flipping one or both chambers this season. State government remains the level of government closest to the people. The decisions you make there are as consequential as any other choice you’ll make this Election Day.
All 18 congressional seats are also up for grabs, and two races there — the Bucks County-based 1st District and the central Pennsylvania-based 10th District — also are among the most closely watched contests in the entire country.
All three elected row offices also are on the ballot. And while two feature incumbents running for re-election, one, auditor general, is an open seat. And win lose or draw, voters have a chance to elect a candidate of color as the state’s fiscal watchdog.
If you haven’t voted yet, or are in the midst of making up your mind, the Capital-Star’s voters’ guide is a great source of information for these hugely important contests. Don’t forget to make your voice heard.
As we noted above, today is the deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot. If you haven’t done that yet, and as we also noted above, what are you waiting for? Our Hearken Election SOS Fellow Kenny Cooper has everything you need to do so.
Erie Correspondent Shayma Musa runs down the contentious fight for Erie’s 16th Congressional District, pitting GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly against Democrat Kristy Gnibus.
Hearken Election SOS Fellow Rjaa Ahmed sat in on a series of panel discussions among suburban women in Philadelphia held by the PA-AARP. Healthcare and the safety of voting in the pandemic topped their list of concerns.
A conservative PAC is sending harmful and misleading text messages about transgender children to Pennsylvania voters, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.
Despite efforts to dispel them, racial tensions and resentment persist in Philadelphia’s court system, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.
President Donald Trump barnstormed Pennsylvania Monday in a last-minute blizzard of lies and half-truths. Trump claimed he’ll carry the Keystone State unless ‘there’s massive fraud,’ your humble newsletter author reports.
Here are the four things you need to know from state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine’s COVID-19 briefing on Monday.
On our Commentary Page this morning, Hannah Laurison of PA Stands Up runs down all the things progressives are fighting for this campaign season. And Dickinson College political science professor Sarah Niebler reminds us that patience will be our greatest virtue on election night.
Voters in Philadelphia waited in the rain and the cold to cast their ballots on Monday, the Inquirer reports.
The Tribune-Review profiles some Joe Biden and Donald Trump super-fans.
PennLive profiles the race for north-central Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District.
Luzerne County is seeing a ‘substantial level’ of COVID-19 transmission, the Citizens-Voice reports.
A longtime aide to a long-serving Erie mayor has died, GoErie reports (paywall).
Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:
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A police shooting interrupted Monday’s hearing on Philadelphia’s proposed police oversight commission, WHYY-FM reports.
WPSU-FM has what you need to know about President Donald Trump’s campaign swing through Blair County on Monday.
The Breonna Taylor shooting has spurred changes to ‘no-knock’ warrant policies across the country, Stateline.org reports.
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Joe Biden with a 50-45 percent lead over Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, PoliticsPA reports.
Shocking no one, but disappointing many, Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Roll Call reports.
What Goes On.
Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar hold a 10:15 a.m. newser to urge Pennsylvanians to return mail-in ballots as soon as possible.
Here’s some new music from Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro. It’s the very melancholy ‘Space.’
Tuesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
A new book sheds some light on Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s extraordinary rise as Manchester United’s manager. The Guardian has the details.
And now you’re up to date.