An application for a mail-in ballot on a tan clipboard.

Election week was stressful in Pennsylvania. Will future elections look the same?

Pennsylvania was shoved into the spotlight of the week-long, real-life drama of an election unlike any other in modern history. Counties worked around the clock for days to tabulate a record number of mail-in ballots, and the nation waited to learn the fate of the commonwealth’s 20 electoral votes. Cable news viewers across the world became intimately familiar with local geography, such as the voting tendencies of Philadelphia’s “collar counties” and Erie’s status as a presidential bellwether. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman caught national attention for saying that President Donald Trump could “sue a ham sandwich” and that every vote would be counted despite Trump’s protests. 

Is this our new normal? Every four years, will the country watch as Pennsylvania spends five days, or more, counting mail-in ballots?

Beth Cadman, of Glassport, spent election day passing out literature for a Democrat, after voting for a Republican for president. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Ever Trumpers? Some blue-collar towns in Allegheny County said yes to the Republican president, again

Beth Cadman was passing out literature for a Democrat on Tuesday, but voting for the Republican at the top of the ticket. “I just like the man and I think he has been very good with his decisions,” Cadman, an unemployed preschool aide, said of President Donald Trump. “He’s nobody’s puppet, and he’s doing it all on his own.”

She voiced her support for Trump while handing out cards for state Sen. Jim Brewster, a Democrat, to voters entering the Glassport Borough Building. The lifelong Glassport resident was not at all surprised that many of her neighbors in the traditionally Democratic town were darkening the Republican’s oval in the race for president. “I think it’s an old mill town, and [Trump] is for helping the people in the mills,” Cadman said.

A person walking in front of a sign that says "Voting place."

PA won’t see full results on election night. Experts urge trust in the process anyway.

On election night in 2016, voters across the country stayed up into the early morning hours awaiting the presidential election results. The race was a nail-biter, but at 2:30 a.m. — six and a half hours after polls in Pennsylvania closed — the Associated Press called the election for Donald Trump. The timing of election night on Nov. 3 will likely be very different. With more than 2.8 million Pennsylvanians requesting mail-in ballots as of Oct.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Allegheny County Council considers bill regulating facial recognition and other surveillance technologies

A new bill could regulate Allegheny County’s use of facial recognition and other surveillance technology. Legislation introduced to Allegheny County Council Tuesday would require county officials to obtain council’s approval before soliciting, acquiring or using facial recognition or other surveillance technologies, except in extreme circumstances. It would also require a public policy detailing how each technology can be used. “The public use of facial surveillance can chill the exercise of constitutionally protected free speech,” the bill states, also noting the technology is less accurate in identifying the faces of women and people of color. “...The benefits of using face surveillance, which are few and speculative, are greatly outweighed by its harms, which are substantial.” 

Councilwoman at-large Bethany Hallam, a Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, told PublicSource: “We’re trying to bring transparency and accountability to one of the least transparent and accountable facets of law enforcement, and that’s surveillance.” The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Councilwoman Olivia Bennett whose district includes Downtown, North Side and Bellevue Borough.

Outside of the Allegheny County Jail building

‘Dehumanizing and unlawful’: Allegheny County Jail sued over alleged mistreatment of inmates with psychiatric disabilities

On Tuesday, a law firm and two legal aid nonprofits jointly filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Allegheny County and three top officials of the Allegheny County Jail [ACJ], alleging “inadequate” treatment and “dehumanizing and unlawful” conditions for inmates with psychiatric disabilities. According to the lawsuit, the jail’s practices violate the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The lawsuit claims the jail does not provide meaningful treatment for individuals with mental health diagnoses and instead uses solitary confinement, irritant spray, a restraint chair and other forceful tactics. “The mental health care system at the Allegheny County Jail is rife with systemic deficiencies that deprive people with psychiatric disabilities of necessary care, and indeed, make their conditions worse,” the federal court complaint said. 

The suit was brought against the county and Warden Orlando Harper, Chief Deputy Warden of Healthcare Services Laura Williams and Mental Health Director Michael Barfield on behalf of five plaintiffs who are currently incarcerated and have psychiatric disabilities, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs are represented by Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and the Abolitionist Law Center.

Outside of the Allegheny County Jail building

‘It almost broke me.’ How the pandemic is straining mental health at Allegheny County Jail.

No personal visitors, hardly any time for inmates outside of their cells and chronic vacancies in mental health and health staff raise concerns that the mental health of Allegheny County Jail [ACJ] inmates is deteriorating, according to inmates recently incarcerated there, family members of current inmates, advocates and current and former ACJ staff.