What to know before you head to the polls | Five for the Weekend

Tuesday, Nov. 2 is Election Day in Pennsylvania

By: - October 30, 2021 6:30 am

(Capital-Star file)

Happy weekend, all.

It’s that time of year again, Pennsylvania! Tuesday, Nov. 2 is Election Day!

Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., for those casting their ballots in-person and masks are encouraged, but not required for voters. 

“We strongly encourage voters to wear masks for their own safety and out of respect for other voters and for the dedicated poll workers staffing the polling places,” the Pennsylvania Department of State said in a statement this week. “Voters who are not wearing a mask will not be denied their right to vote.”

Note: Still need to brush up on who and what is on the ballot? Check out the Capital-Star 2021 General Election Voters Guide!

In it’s statement, the department also outlined a few “need to knows” for voters before they head to the polls.

Voter Identification & Verification:

1. Only first-time voters or those voting for the first time in a new precinct are required to show ID. Acceptable forms of ID can be found here. 

2. Voters who moved within the state but did not update their address before the election may vote one more in their previous precinct, but must update their address at the polling place, according to the department.

3. Voters whose identity or residency is challenged may vote normally by signing a challenge affidavit and providing a witness who is a registered voter in the precinct and can vouch for them. If a voter refuses or cannot provide a witness, they can cast a provisional ballot. According to the department, voters can only be challenged on this basis on identity, residency and eligibility qualifications. 

4. Voters should look up and report to their correct polling place on Election Day to cast their ballots. Voters who believe they are at the right location, but whose name is not in the poll book can cast a provisional ballot only.

Voter Intimidation & Harassment 

Those voting in-person have the right to “vote without being subjected to intimidation, harassment or discriminatory conduct,” a statement from the department reads. Voters who experience harassment or intimidation are asked to report it to their county Board of Elections, district attorney’s office or the Department of State. 

The Department of State website has more information for voters.

As always, the top 5 stories from this week are below. 

Key: Navy – D+5,000 or more, Blue – D+1,001 to D+4,999, Light Skyblue – D+1 to D+1,000. Light Salmon – R+1 to R+1,000, Red – R+1,001 to R+4,999, Maroon – R+5,000 or more. (Map by Nick Field via Dave’s Redistricting)

1. Voter Registration Update: Latest data shows a strong summer for the GOP

It was a cruel summer for Pennsylvania Democrats as Republicans resumed their voter registration gains.

In fact, it was a tough few months for Dems in D.C. as well. The COVID surge caused by the Delta Variant, combined with the contentious withdrawal from Afghanistan and gridlock in Washington, sent President Biden’s approval ratings into a tailspin.

Those struggles were reflected in the Keystone State’s registration numbers. After the Dems expanded their advantage to 630,075 in June, Republicans were able to drive that edge down to 605,493.

As of last week, Pennsylvania had 4,025,694 registered Democrats and 3,420,201 registered Republicans. That’s a double drop from June, when there were 4,057,723 Democrats and 3,427,648 Republicans.

To get a sense of where these changes are taking place, let’s take a deep dive into the numbers.

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg (Capital-Star file)

2. Your statewide voters guide for the 2021 general election in Pennsylvania

Every year is an election year in Pennsylvania, and that includes 2021.

In this election, there aren’t any trickily-worded ballot questions or presidential electors at stake. But that doesn’t make it any less important. Besides school boards, county commissioners, and mayoral races, voters must fill four open seats on the statewide bench when they go to the polls Nov. 2

Before we get into that, if you have questions about how to vote, and if you can, check out our other guide here. You have until Oct. 18 to register to cast a ballot this year, and you can register online here.

Sen. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Screenshot)

3. Senate Judiciary committee advances bill to increase penalties for people who evade arrest

Wanting to honor a Pennsylvania police officer who died on duty, a Senate panel has advanced legislation that would increase penalties for those who evade arrest.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-2 on Tuesday to approve a bill that would create a new offense for individuals who flee from police to evade arrest on foot.

The legislation sponsored by Sens. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne, and Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, came after Scranton police officer John Wilding fell to his death in 2015 while chasing three teenagers suspected of armed robbery.

Though they were charged with Wilding’s death, the suspects pleaded to a lesser offense and received a sentence of nine to 18 years in prison, according to WNEP-TV.

(c) Microgen – Stock.Adobe.com

4. Can magic mushrooms help fight mental illness? A bipartisan group of Pa. lawmakers think so

Marijuana legalization may hit partisan stumbling blocks in Harrisburg, but lawmakers in both parties have united around a new drug policy — letting Pennsylvania researchers look into how to use magic mushrooms to address mental health issues.

In a rare show of cross-party support, it is sponsored by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats have thrown their support behind the proposal sponsored by Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, R-Montgomery.

And advocates and lawmakers say that if all goes well, it could reduce the stigma around mental health treatment and psychedelics while helping veterans and cutting care costs.

Many people are using Bible verses to justify their stance against vaccines (David McNew/AFP via Getty Images/The Conversation).

5. Anti-vaxxers aren’t the first to cherry-pick the Bible. It’s been done for centuries | Opinion

A devout evangelical Christian friend of mine recently texted to explain why he was not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. “Jesus went around healing lepers and touched them without fear of getting leprosy,” he said.

This story that St. Luke tells in his gospel (17:11-19) is not the only Bible verse I have seen and heard evangelical Christians use to justify anti-vaccine convictions. Other popular passages include Psalm 30:2: “Lord, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”; 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?”; and Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood.”

All of these verses have been lifted out of context and repurposed to buttress the anti-vaccine movement. As a historian of the Bible in American life, I can attest that such shallow reading in service of political and cultural agendas has long been a fixture of evangelical Christianity.

And that’s the week. See you back here next weekend. 

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Cassie Miller
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.