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Stories about Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania statewide election passed

The statewide primary for Pennsylvania was held on May 18. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for Nov. 2. Four state legislative special general elections were also on the ballot.

Candidates ran in elections for the following offices: 

  • Four state legislative special elections
    • State Senate Districts 22 and 48 and state House Districts 59 and 60. One Democratic candidate won election in Senate District 22. The other three seats were won by Republican candidates. No seats were flipped.
  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court (one seat)
    • Democrat Maria McLaughlin was unopposed and advanced to the general election. She faces Republican Kevin Brobson, who defeated two challengers in the primary. Justice Thomas Saylor (R) was not able to file for retention due to Pennsylvania’s mandatory retirement age.
  • Pennsylvania Superior Court (one seat)
    • Democrat Timika Lane advanced after defeating two challengers in the primary. Republican Megan Sullivan advanced unopposed.
  • Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court (two seats)
    • Democrat Lori A. Dumas was one of two projected winners in the Democratic primary. Democratic candidates Amanda Green-Hawkins and David Spurgeon were too close to call for the second seat as of May 20. Republicans Andrew Crompton and Stacy Wallace advanced to the general election without opposition.

Ballotpedia also covered local elections in the following areas: 

  • Harrisburg
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Allegheny County
  • Pittsburgh Public Schools

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Measures to ban solitary confinement, no-knock warrants approved in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, voters approved a ballot initiative to prohibit solitary confinement in the county jail. The ballot initiative received 70% of the vote. In Pittsburgh, which is also located in Allegheny County, voters approved a ballot initiative to prohibit the police from executing warrants without knocking or announcing themselves. It received 81% of the vote.

Ballotpedia has tracked five local ballot measures in 2021 concerning

  1. police oversight;
  2. the powers and structure of oversight commissions;
  3. police and incarceration practices;
  4. law enforcement department structure and administration;
  5. reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets;
  6. law enforcement training requirements; or
  7. body and dashboard camera footage.

Ballotpedia identified 20 local police-related ballot measures on the ballot for the election on November 3, 2020, that qualified following the death of George Floyd.

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Pennsylvania voters pass constitutional amendments to limit governor’s emergency orders without legislative support

On May 18, Pennsylvania voters approved two constitution amendments on the governor’s emergency powers, which were a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the coronavirus pandemic. According to unofficial results on May 19, both Question 1 and Question 2 received 54% of the statewide vote.

Voters also approved the other two statewide measures on the ballot by votes of 71%-29% and 72%-28%, respectively.

Question 1 allows the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass a resolution, which would not require the governor’s signature, to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration. Question 2 limits the governor’s declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the order. 

The Legislature passed a concurrent resolution to end the governor’s coronavirus emergency declaration in June 2020. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the governor could veto the concurrent resolution. On July 14, Gov. Wolf vetoed the resolution. A two-thirds vote in the legislature would have been required to overturn the veto.

Pennsylvania will join four other states—Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, and Minnesota—that require a legislative vote to extend or terminate a governor’s emergency declaration after a specific number of days. In Kansas, the requirement is 15 days after the order is first issued. In Michigan, the requirement is 28 days. In Alaska and Minnesota, the requirement is 30 days.

Ballotpedia did not identify ballot measure committees that supported or opposed the constitutional amendments. Americans For Prosperity and The Commonwealth Foundation—both 501(c) organizations—spent about $150,000 through independent expenditures to support Question 1 and Question 2.

The Pennsylvania amendments were the first in the country to address the governor’s emergency powers since the pandemic began. In 2021 or 2022, at least six other states will vote on at least seven other ballot measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions. In November, Texans will vote on a constitutional amendment to prohibit the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services or organizations. 

The approval of Pennsylvania Question 1 and Question 2, as well as Question 3, continues the trend of successful constitutional amendments in the state since 1989. Between 1989 and 2020, 15 constitutional amendments were approved. Pennsylvanians could see more constitutional amendments on the ballot in November. Potential measures that have passed in one chamber of the legislature include amendments to have gubernatorial candidates select their lieutenant gubernatorial running mates and to reorganize the election of state judges and justices into districts. 

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Edward Gainey wins the Democratic primary for mayor of Pittsburgh, advances to November general election

State Rep. Edward Gainey (D) defeated incumbent Bill Peduto, Tony Moreno, and Michael Thompson in the May 18, 2021, Democratic primary for mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Gainey received 46.18% with 98% of precincts reporting as of May 19. Peduto received 39.29% of the vote, while Moreno and Thompson received 13.12% and 1.2% respectively. 

No Republicans filed to run in the race. Unless a write-in candidate enters, Gainey will run unopposed in the general election on November 2, 2021.

Gainey was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to represent District 24 in 2012. He was re-elected in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020. His campaign focused on what he called demilitarizing the police, building affordable housing, and pushing to revoke the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) nonprofit status to collect more in taxes. Gainey would be the first Black mayor of Pittsburgh. 

Peduto was first elected mayor in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. Peduto’s campaign focused on policies he enacted as mayor, including mandatory de-escalation practices and implicit bias training for police officers and COVID-19 paid sick leave for Pittsburgh workers. Before becoming mayor, Peduto served on the Pittsburgh City Council, representing District 8 from 2002-2013.

Moreno, a military veteran and retired Pittsburgh police officer, campaigned on his experience in law enforcement, while Thompson, a math tutor and driver for Lyft and Uber, focused on affordable housing. 

To learn more about the mayoral election in Pittsburgh, click here.

Mayoral election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2021)



Flynn wins special election for Pennsylvania State Senate District 22

Pennsylvania State Senate District 22 held a special general election on May 18. Martin Flynn (D) won the special election with 51.5% of the vote and defeated Chris Chermak (R), Marlene Sebastianelli (G), and Nathan Covington (L). 

The filing deadline passed on March 29.

The special election became necessary when John Blake (D) resigned to join the staff of U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D). Blake served from 2011 to 2021.

Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the Pennsylvania State Senate by a margin of 28 to 21, with one independent. Republicans also control the state House by a margin of 113 to 90. Tom Wolf (D) is the governor. 

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Special elections to be held in four Pennsylvania legislative districts on May 18

Image of a red sign with the words "Polling Place" a pointing arrow.

Special elections are being held on May 18 for two seats in the Pennsylvania State Senate and two seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Voters will decide on representation in District 22 and District 48 of the state Senate as well as District 59 and District 60 of the state House.

  • In Senate District 22, Martin Flynn (D), Chris Chermak (R), Marlene Sebastianelli (G), and Nathan Covington (L) are running in the special election. The seat became vacant after John Blake (D) resigned on March 8 to work for U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D). Blake had represented the district since 2011.
  • In Senate District 48, Calvin Clements (D), Chris Gebhard (R), Ed Krebs (Bring People Together), and Timothy McMaster (L) are facing off. The seat became vacant after the death of David Arnold (R) on Jan. 17. Arnold was elected to the District 48 seat in a special election in January 2020.
  • In House District 59, Mariah Fisher (D), Leslie Baum Rossi (R), and Robb Luther (L) are running. The seat became vacant after the death of Mike Reese (R) on Jan. 2. Reese had represented the district since 2009.
  • In House District 60, Frank Prazenica (D), Abby Major (R), and Andrew Hreha (L) are on the ballot. The seat became vacant after Jeffrey Pyle (R) resigned on March 16, citing health issues. Pyle had represented the district since 2005.

Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 27-20 margin with one independent member and two vacancies. The state House is controlled by a 111-90 Republican majority with two vacancies.

As of May, 38 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Pennsylvania held 44 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Minnesota, Pennsylvania announce plans to lift face covering requirements

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) announced May 6 that he will end the statewide mask mandate on July 1. Walz said the mask mandate could be lifted earlier if 70% of residents age 16 and older receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) said on May 4 he will end the statewide mask mandate when 70% of residents age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. Wolf did not announce a target date for ending the restrictions.

Ballotpedia tracked four other amendments to statewide mask orders over the last week:

*Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) amended the state’s mask order on May 2. The updated order lifts the requirement for people to wear masks in indoor spaces with more than 10 people if 80% of those individuals are fully vaccinated. The order does not say what proof is necessary to demonstrate vaccination status.

*Michigan Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Hertel issued an order May 4 lifting the outdoor mask requirement for gatherings of fewer than 100 people. Additionally, players in organized contact sports are no longer required to wear masks.

*Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an emergency directive updating the statewide mask mandate order to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest guidance on May 3. The updated language states that people “shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face covering in a manner consistent with current guidance issued by the CDC, and any subsequent guidance issued by the CDC.” 

*Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) revised the outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents and visitors on May 1. Masks are now only required in crowded settings when social distancing isn’t possible. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Twenty-five states currently have statewide mask orders, including 20 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and five out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of the 14 states that have ended statewide public mask requirements, 11 have Republican governors and 3 have Democratic governors. Eleven states have ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) have ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) has ended its mandate through court order.



Here’s a round-up of this week’s redistricting news: May 5, 2021

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released apportionment counts for the U.S. House of Representatives, kicking off the 2021-2022 redistricting cycle. Throughout this year and next, policymakers (including state legislators, governors, and special redistricting commissions) will draft and implement new state legislative and congressional district maps, which will remain in force for the next 10 years. Beginning today, we will provide weekly updates on major redistricting events across all 50 states.

Oklahoma lawmakers unveil draft maps for state legislature: On April 21, Oklahoma lawmakers released their proposed district maps for the state senate and house of representatives, making Oklahoma the first state in the 2021-2022 cycle to produce draft maps. In lieu of final 2020 census data, which has not yet been made available to the states, lawmakers used the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data for 2015 through 2019 to draft their proposals.

Release of apportionment counts triggers lawsuits in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania: On April 26, Democracy Docket filed three separate lawsuits on behalf of registered voters in three states, asking courts in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to intervene and set up timelines for enacting court-drawn maps for the 2022 election cycle “in the near-certain event” that governors and legislatures in each state fail to do so. The substantive language used in the three suits is similar. All three allege that “there is no reasonable prospect that … political branches will reach consensus to enact” lawful district maps in a timely manner because the three states operate under divided governments (i.e., both the Democratic and Republican parties control at least one of the following: the governorship, the upper chamber of the state legislature, and the lower chamber).

New York Gov. Cuomo mulls legal challenge over loss of congressional seat: On April 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters that he was considering the state’s “legal options” with respect to New York’s loss of one congressional seat to reapportionment. According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state could have kept the seat if 89 additional New York residents had been counted. Cuomo said, “Do I think it was accurate within 89? No. And we’re looking at legal options. Because when you’re talking about 89, that could be a minor mistake in counting.” According to Janna Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, no state has ever succeeded in challenging apportionment counts in court.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoints chairman of state legislative redistricting commission: On May 3, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced the appointment of Mark Nordenberg as chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission. Nordenberg, Chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics, joins Sen. Majority Leader Kim Ward (R), Sen. Minority Leader Jay Costa (D), House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R), and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D). The state supreme court appointed Nordenberg as chairman after the four other members of the commission failed to agree on an appointment. The commission has the sole authority to draft and implement new state legislative district maps.

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New apportionment data released – six states gain congressional seats, seven states lose seats

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau released it post-2020 census apportionment counts. Six states—Texas (two seats), Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon—gained seats. Seven states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—each lost a seat.

Of the six states that gained congressional seats, three are Republican trifectas (Texas, Florida, and Montana), meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers in each. Two (Colorado and Oregon) are Democratic trifectas, and one (North Carolina) is a divided government.

Of the seven states that lost congressional seats, three (California, Illinois, and New York) are Democratic trifectas, two (Ohio and West Virginia) are Republican trifectas, and two (Michigan and Pennsylvania) are divided governments.

What is apportionment, and how does it work? Every ten years, the nation conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. The data gleaned from the census determines congressional apportionment. Apportionment is the process by which the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allotted to the states on the basis of population, as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows – or lose seats if its population decreases – relative to populations in other states.

After the first census (1790), the 105 members of U.S. House represented about 34,000 residents each. Now, the 435 members of the House will represent an average of 761,169 residents each.

The 2020 census: According to the 2020 census, the resident population of the United States, as of April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281, representing a 7.4 percent increase over the 2010 population. California remained the most populous state with 39,538,223 residents. The population of Texas, the only state to gain multiple congressional seats from apportionment, grew by nearly 4 million residents between 2010 and 2020, reaching 29,145,505. Utah was the fastest-growing state: its population increased by 18.4 percent between 2010 and 2020, reaching 3,271,616.

The census is a complex undertaking. First, the Census Bureau collects data. This involves making a list of every residence (including houses, apartments, dorms, etc.) in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories; asking members of each household in the country to complete the census survey; and following up with those households that did not submit surveys. The Census Bureau then must process the data. This involves making a final list of residential addresses, cross-checking for duplicate responses, and processing write-in responses. The Census Bureau also uses imputation, a statistical method applied “in rare instances” that enables the Census Bureau “to fill in missing information using what we already know about an address and its nearest, similar neighbor.” Typically, upon final processing of the data, the Census Bureau delivers state population and apportionment counts by December 31 in the year of the census. Detailed redistricting data follows by April 1 of the next year.

On November 19, 2020, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced that, “during post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies [had] been discovered.” Dillingham said that he had directed the bureau “to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible.” On January 27, 2021, Kathleen Styles, a Census Bureau official, announced that the final apportionment report would be delivered by April 30, 2021.

What comes next: The Census Bureau has not yet delivered redistricting data to the states. Upon announcing the 2020 apportionment counts, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said, “Our work doesn’t stop here. Now that the apportionment counts are delivered, we will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed due to COVID-19.” The Census Bureau expects to deliver the raw data to the states by August 16. The “full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of us” will be delivered by September 30.

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