Pennsylvania’s Election Code Could Change Before November


On today's program: The Trump campaign is suing 67 Pennsylvania counties over mail-in ballots; a key demographic that elected Donald Trump in the 2016 election is changing; and Carnegie Mellon University is using a phased approach to bring researchers back to the lab.

Vote by mail lawsuits get expedited hearing in Pittsburgh
(00:00 — 6:13)

Nearly 1.5 million Pennsylvanians cast their votes in the June primary election by mail. It was the first election in the state where “no excuse” absentee ballots were permitted.

The Trump campaign sued Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and all 67 county election boards, less than a month after the election, claiming that the mail-in ballots could lead to election fraud.

A judge agreed to expedite the case with a hearing September 22 in Pittsburgh. 

Emily Previti, a reporter with PA Post who is covering the lawsuits, says there could be changes to the election code in Pennsylvania before the November election.

“Many election officials and fair voting, fair elections advocates say that there should be changes to the election code based on what happened during the primary,” Previti tells The Confluence. “Some of these changes had been requested even in advance of the primary. State lawmakers will be looking at making changes to the election code anyway.”

Other lawsuits are pending, including suits brought by National Election Defense Coalition, Judicial Watch, and the NAACP. 

Pennsylvania’s changing demographics could impact the 2020 election
(6:22 — 9:46)

Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes out of more than 6,000,000 cast in the state for the 2016 election. His slender margin of victory was due to support from white voters—specifically, voters without a college degree.


WHYY’s Katie Meyer reports that group of voters is steadily shrinking, and demographic data shows if Trump wants to win Pennsylvania again, his coalition needs to expand.

CMU research labs begin to reopen with new safety measures
(9:54 — 17:45)

Pittsburgh is home to several institutions that teach students and conduct research used around the globe.

Labs shut down earlier in the pandemic, but now with the fall semester approaching, universities need to figure out how to get students and researchers safely back on campus.

Carnegie Mellon University is using a phased reopening system, says the school’s Vice President for Research, Michael McQuade. Each lab that resumed operations developed a safety plan. These take into account the number of people in the lab, the protective equipment available and ability to keep social distance. 

The schools’ deans set the priorities for researchers can return.

While researchers have lost time for in-person research, McQuade says it hasn’t caused any major problems thus far. 

“Over the period of time when nothing was specifically on campus, most of our research teams were able to shift the, sort of, short term priorities,” he says. “Research, even research that has to be in a physical space, often has desk work, computer work, literature work, writing.”

“There have been some cases where we worry a little bit about long-term retention of schedule, but so far that hasn’t been really an issue for us. Those kinds of schedule things have factored into the prioritization which we’re beginning to bring the physical research back to campus.”


The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.