Welcome to October | Five for Your Weekend

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Happy weekend, everyone!

Welcome to the first few days of October! We hope you’re enjoying the milder weather and favorite fall activities.

With 32 days until the Nov. 3 general election, our team has assembled comprehensive coverage to answer as many of your election-related questions as possible.

This week the Capital-Star launched an interactive map of Pa. with the locations of ballot drop boxes across the state. You can view that here.

If you have questions about how to vote in Pennsylvania, our 2020 election guide has all the answers.
Want more information about the jobs and candidates? Visit our voter’s guide. 

Our election guides are also available in Spanish!

As always, the week’s top stories are below.

Cheers to a leisurely weekend,

Cassie Miller | Associate Editor

1. PA GOP disputes assertions in bombshell Atlantic story

One day after Pennsylvania’s Republican state party chairman was quoted in a national magazine raising the possibility of an electoral college meltdown in the Keystone State, party officials issued a statement denouncing the reporter, and emphasizing a commitment to timely and accurate election results.

In a statement released Thursday, a party spokeswoman claims that comments by state GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas were taken out of context in a story published Wednesday by The Atlantic, which surveyed constitutional experts and political scientists about scenarios facing the Electoral College if the results of the popular vote are still unclear 35 days after the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Tabas told Atlantic reporter Barton Gellman that he spoke with the Trump reelection campaign about the possibility of the Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states directly appointing electors if the popular vote is not resolved – a scenario that would award Trump Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral college votes, and likely the election.

2. Election 2020: Your guide to voting in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanians will have the chance to vote for state legislators, row officers, members of Congress, and, of course, the President on Nov. 3.

The Capital-Star wants to help. This guide has everything you need to know to find your way to the polls, whether you’re casting your vote in-person or by mail.

If you have a question we didn’t answer here, we invite you to get in touch with us – submit your question using this form.

A note: All of the information below is current as of Monday, Sept. 21. State lawmakers are debating legislation that could change some deadlines for voting by mail, but those proposals aren’t guaranteed to become law. We’ll immediately update this guide if and when the rules change.

3. What’s a ‘naked ballot?’ And why will it will lead to your Pa. mail-in ballot being rejected?Pennsylvania might have a very big problem with counting the upcoming election results, and it all could hinge on “naked ballots.”

The term “naked ballot” refers to a mail-in or absentee ballot that is returned without its secrecy envelope.

This is the first year that Pennsylvania has allowed no-excuse mail in voting, and the primary produced nearly 1.5 million mail-in ballots. Election officials expect those mail-in ballot figures to increase to about 3 million for the general election in November, and potentially over 100,000 mail-in ballots that could be rejected in the general election. And some forecasters think those rejections could be even higher.

Considering that President Donald Trump won in 2016 by about 44,000 votes, the consequences of that many mail-in ballots being rejected could easily sway the Pennsylvania election, which has the ability to sway the election for the entire country.

So, Pittsburgh City Paper wants voters to be informed on “naked ballots” and secrecy envelopes. Also, if you want to learn more about the entire vote-by-mail process, see CP’s handy explainer on mail-in voting.

4. Who should speak for crime victims in Pennsylvania? The move to oust the state victim advocate, explained

Pennsylvania’s state Capitol was consumed by fervent activism for much of the fall in 2018, as survivors of clergy sex abuse appealed to lawmakers in rallies, press conferences, and demonstrations to make it easier for them to sue perpetrators in years-old abuse cases.

One of the loudest voices belonged to Jennifer Storm, the state’s appointed victim advocate.

Since 2013, Storm has directed an office that commands a $3.5 million budget to administer services for crime victims and their families.

5. Here’s what the CDC eviction ban means for Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanians who have fallen behind on rent may be shielded from eviction once again, this time under a new federal order that aims to keep them in their homes through the end of 2020.

Housing attorneys say they’re still analyzing the details of a new order the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued unexpectedly late Tuesday evening, which appears to shield most renters from new eviction claims if they’ve lost jobs or income.

The order may not take effect until Friday, experts say. But it will remain in place, nationwide, through Dec. 31.

The new protections came as welcome news to housing advocates in Pennsylvania, who predicted that cash-strapped landlords would rush to the courts after a moratorium imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf expired Monday.

And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here Monday. 

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.