Features & Special Reports

Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania certified Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election weeks ago. But President Trump’s campaign and some allies are still fighting the outcome in court. For the final installment of our Split Ticket series, 90.5 WESA asked four Western Pennsylvania voters – who we’ve been following for the last year – how they feel about the outcome.

Photo by Wes Carrasquillo / Courtesy of Liveright Press

Puerto Ricans have been immigrating to the U.S. for generations. Yet many mainlanders know little about this Caribbean island. For example, in 2017, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, some Americans seemed surprised to learn that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

Erin Keane Scott / 90.5 WESA



Susan Uffelman, 53, of Pittsburgh and Michele Charmello, 51, of Pitcairn, Pa., stand on opposite ends of the political spectrum—Uffelman to the right, Charmello to the left. 

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

While it’s almost cliché to call western Pennsylvania an election battleground, local political organizers do not take the status for granted. And as this year’s campaign comes to a close in the age of COVID-19, members of both parties are mobilizing voters in their own way.



Two years ago this week, a gunman killed 11 members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.


In their conversation for One Small Step, a partnership between StoryCorps and WESA, Amber Neider, 34, of Baldwin and Dan Leger, 74, of Squirrel Hill—who was one of those injured in the shooting—reflect on how they responded to the event as Pittsburghers. They also discuss how it has informed their views on gun rights. 

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

Voting rights activists – as well as Democrats – are pinning their hopes for a big turnout in this year’s election on mail-in voting. But some voters in Black communities don't plan to just sit back and mail it in.

Courtesy of Scalo Solar Solutions, LLC

Trains still carry coal past the now-abandoned Mathies Mine, located on the Monongahela River in Washington County. Metal fencing blocks the mine entrance, a cave-like opening where hundreds of miners once trod miles of tunnels.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

On a chilly October evening, Vicki Potter stands in a gravel parking lot in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The scent of popcorn mixes with the gasoline from nearby idling cars. Patrons are masked and sitting in the beds of trucks and trunks of minivans as an old-timey concession stand advertisement blares over the loudspeakers.

Erin Keane Scott / 90.5 WESA


Aaron Weidman, 32, of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, says the idea of “luck” plays a limited role in how likely a person is to realize their potential. But Tawnya Davis, 53, of Monroeville, Pa., says not everyone has access to the same resources. 

Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Election Day is in just two weeks. But concerns about slow mail delivery, voter suppression, and baseless claims of fraud have voters on both sides wondering if the results can be trusted.

Screenshot (left), Sarah Kovash (right) / 90.5 WESA (right)

Suburban Pennsylvania voters may reshape the national political landscape this year, and that’s especially true in places like the 17th Congressional District outside of Pittsburgh, where Democrat Conor Lamb is being challenged by Republican Sean Parnell. 


Courtesy of the Committee to Elect Jim Brewster and Friends of Nicole Ziccarelli

State Senator Jim Brewster, of McKeesport, is one of Allegheny County’s last old-school Democrats — friendly to labor, but socially conservative — to serve in Harrisburg. And now, after his district went narrowly for President Donald Trump in 2016, the lawmaker faces a reelection challenge from first-time Republican candidate Nicole Ziccarelli, of Lower Burrell.

A win for Brewster is considered essential to enabling Democrats to flip control of the Pennsylvania legislature.

Photo by Beth Kukucka / Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh Press

Pittsburgh’s poetry community is large but tight-knit. One big reason is Jan Beatty, the award-winning poet and educator whose sixth collection was just published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Erin Keane Scott / 90.5 WESA


During this contentious and divisive election season, taking place on top of a global pandemic and a year of nationwide civil protests, it often feels the opposing political sides are so at odds, no middle ground can be found in between. 

Courtesy of Shapiro for Pennsylvania and Heidelbaugh for Attorney General

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has attracted national attention as a frequent foe of the Trump Administration and as a champion of consumers. 

Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The U.S. Supreme Court has been thrust into the political spotlight, following the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For our Split Ticket series, we’re following four Western Pennsylvania voters for one year, and looking at how issues like the Supreme Court influence their choices. With just a month until the general election, the fight over Ginsburg’s replacement underscores the tensions of a divisive election year.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Criminal defense lawyer Giuseppe Rosselli was confused when his client, George Allen, didn’t show up for a court date in late July. They had texted about the hearing moments earlier.

Courtesy of Mercuri and Skopov campaigns

For the last 20 years, the North Hills suburbs were represented in the state House by conservative champion Mike Turzai. Now that the former House speaker has resigned, there’s a chance for a major shift in representation for a district where demographics are already changing.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

With negotiations over a new coronavirus relief package stalled in Congress, extra money for food assistance is among the items hanging in the balance. And in tens of thousands of local households, the impasse compounds the fear of going hungry.

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

For years, the Democratic Party has struggled to retain support from Catholic voters in southwestern Pennsylvania, and it will likely be hard for Democrats to reverse that trend in November – even with a ticket led by a Catholic presidential nominee.  

Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Gun sales and gun violence have increased during the coronavirus pandemic, but the issue has been largely absent from the 2020 campaign. For WESA’s Split Ticket series, we’re following four Western Pennsylvania voters for a year, asking them about the issues that could sway their decision at the ballot box.

This month, they weighed in on firearms. But while they shared common ground on some changes to gun laws, the gun debate is still divisive.

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

Recent revelations that the U.S. Postal Service will likely struggle to deliver mail-in ballots in time for Election Day has worried voters, campaigns and election officials across the U.S. But the stakes feel particularly high in battleground states like Pennsylvania -- and with less than three months until November, election officials are trying to address mail delivery problems and voter fears.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Sitting in a grassy lot along Braddock’s main avenue, Jona Reyes dreams of restoring the energy that she says once coursed through the neighborhood. Since steel’s decline more than 30 years ago, the Mon Valley community has suffered from chronic disinvestment.

Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

This month, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping green energy plan. It marks a strong contrast from President Donald Trump, who has long championed fossil fuels.

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

Despite a pandemic, high voter turnout, and a new election law, Allegheny County finished tallying votes in the June primary before most counties in the state. Now, the people behind that process are looking at what went right -- and what needs to be changed ahead of November.

Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

As protests against police brutality sweep across the country, polling suggests most Americans support law-enforcement reform. In our year-long Split Ticket series, we’ve been asking four voters about the issues that could sway their decision at the ballot box. This month, the many reported acts of police brutality – and the President’s response to them – have deepened one voter’s commitment to be heard in November.

Charles R. Martin Photographs / University of Pittsburgh

Lenore Williams was living in Homewood when civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. 

Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Reopening the economy has become a polarizing issue, and how elected leaders handle the task could sway voters’ decisions at the ballot box in November. For our Split Ticket series, we asked four western Pennsylvania voters about how they view reopening strategies.

Photos courtesy of the candidates / 90.5 WESA

Republican Mike Turzai represented the 28th state house District for nearly two decades before announcing his plans to retire at the end of this year. None of the three Republicans vying for his North Hills seat would have the same legislative clout as Turzai, the outgoing Speaker of the House. But they still believe they can help guide the state through the coronavirus pandemic.

Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

During the first few months of this year, the 2020 presidential race dominated the country’s attention – until the coronavirus arrived.