On today's program: A Republican legislative proposal would limit where voters could deposit their mail-in ballots; a new report says many highway “stop-and-frisks” are conducted illegally and eventually thrown out in court; and some types of pollution may be increasing due to climate change.
PA State Senate majority leader cites ‘security’ concerns as reason for proposed cuts to ballot drop-off boxes
(00:00 — 6:20)
Pennsylvania State Senate Republicans want to make changes to voting in the state ahead of the election. A proposed bill, if passed and signed into law, would require voters to request a mail-in ballot no later than 15 days before the election and restrict locations for ballot drop boxes. It also would allow county election divisions to start pre-canvassing ballots three days before the election.
Majority leader Jake Corman acknowledges Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot system is better than other states but claims his bill will increase voter access.
“We’re concerned about the security of drop boxes, so that’s what the President is suing about,” he says, referring to the Trump reelection campaign’s lawsuit over mail-in drop-off sites in Pennsylvania. “Those are valid concerns and I understand that; that’s why we’re trying to pass a bill to take care of all these issues.”
Corman says his legislation would allow for “a couple alternate locations, but not just anywhere that doesn’t have security.” Voters could drop their ballots at a county courthouse or at their local voting precinct, Corman suggests.
Democrats criticized the bill, warning it could restrict access to voting. Corman says he hopes election reform will be a bipartisan effort.
“We’re trying to improve the process so that, again, everyone has access to voting, that everyone has confidence in the security of their voting, and we get the results in a timely fashion,” he says.
New report says some highway “stop-and-frisks” might be illegal
(6:21 — 13:23)
State troopers on Pennsylvania highways commonly use traffic stops in hopes of stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the Commonwealth. A new report by the newsroom collaborative Spotlight PA and the Appeal indicates many of the stops and searches are conducted illegally.
University of Pittsburgh law professor and WESA legal analyst David Harris says while the traffic stops themselves may be legitimate, “What we see here is the use of traffic offenses as pretext in order to stop people to search for evidence of crimes of which there is no evidence.”
State police do not record data on how often officers find illegal substances during these stops, calling into question the effectiveness of these tactics. They also don’t keep data regarding a person’s race, which critics say can lead to racial profiling.
“When you have a law enforcement agency that covers a whole state, when they’re engaging in practices that may—and I say may—implicate racial profiling or misuse of law enforcement power or lack of probable cause, you need to be able to tell the public if that’s happening or not,” says Harris. “It is not sufficient to simply say ‘We think we’re doing a great job, trust us.’”
Hotter days caused by climate change could increase air pollution
(13:24 — 18:03)
Pollution levels in American cities have fallen in the decades since the passage of clean air laws in the 1970s. And even though cars and factories are emitting less, some types of air pollution might increase in the years to come, thanks to climate change.
For StateImpact Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier reports rising temperatures are making American cities smoggier.
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.