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New Executive Director Of Common Cause PA Plans To Improve Voting, Democracy

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Lucy Perkins
/
90.5 WESA
New Common Cause Executive Director Khalif Ali says the organization needs to turn its attention to ensuring access to voting rights and fighting voter disinformation.

On today's program: The new executive director of Common Cause, Pittsburgh native Khalif Ali, explains why he thinks democracy is under attack, and how to remedy it; and WESA health and science reporter Sarah Boden dives into why a statewide shutdown hasn’t been adopted, despite a worsening pandemic.

New Common Cause Executive Director Khalif Ali wants to ensure voting access remains
(0:00 - 10:11)

Common Cause Pennsylvania's new Executive Director Khalif Ali says the organization is focused on ensuring Pennsylvanians “are able to practice democracy without any barriers, without any hesitation, and with full confidence.”

Common Cause Pennsylvania was part of a number of lawsuits leading up to the general election. These lawsuits included questions about ballot dropboxes, signatures and security envelopes.

“This year we felt like we needed to be a little bit more vigilant because of everything that’s going on with the lawsuits and the challenges to the certification of President-Elect Joe Biden as President,” says Ali.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused a request on Tuesday to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh native previously worked with Common Cause on congressional redistricting, an issue that ultimately went to the state supreme court. In 2018 the redrawn districts elected nine Democrats and nine Republicans to represent the state in Congress; previously, 13 Republicans and five Democrats held those seats.

Ali is bringing experience from his time on the Ethics Board of the City of Pittsburgh and as the previous Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for the Pittsburgh Foundation.

“I’m just a believer in democracy,” says Ali. “But I do think that any democracy, that would include ours, is a work in progress.”

The next big challenge, he says, is fighting disinformation about the process of voting, and ensuring broader access, like voting by mail, stays in place.

Coronavirus cases are rising, so why hasn’t the state set new restrictions?
(10:25 - 18:00)

On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf and other top officials pleaded with the public to stay home, citing surging coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in Pennsylvania. He says that if the virus’s spread doesn’t slow, it will overwhelm hospitals to the breaking point.

Despite his dire warnings, the governor has yet to order another shutdown like what was seen in the spring. 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports on this fraught situation.

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.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
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