OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Pennsylvania lawmakers took another step towards enhancing election integrity ahead of what are expected to be highly contested midterm races.
According to a Friday report, the Commonwealth has banned public officials from using private funds to conduct elections.
Per The Federalist:
Passed by the state’s Republican-majority legislature and signed into law by Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday, the legislation (SB 982) mandates that Pennsylvania public officials “may not solicit, apply for, enter into a contract for or receive or expend gifts, donations, grants or funding from any individual, business, organization, trust, foundation, or any nongovernmental entity for the registration of voters or the preparation, administration or conducting of an election in [the] Commonwealth.”
Also included in the bill is the establishment of an “election integrity grant program,” wherein the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is permitted to distribute grants “to counties for the administration of elections.” Beginning Aug. 1, counties will be allowed to submit applications to receive funds from the program, with the size of the grant received by a county determined “by the quotient of the county’s number of registered voters divided by the total number of registered voters in all counties.”
The law goes on to specify that the grant funds can only be used under certain circumstances, including the “payment of staff needed to pre-canvass mail-in ballots and absentee ballots,” “physical security and transparency costs for centralized pre-canvassing and canvassing,” and “processing of voter registration applications,” and some other uses.
In an interview with the outlet, Sen. Lisa Baker, the bill’s primary sponsor, noted that she and co-sponsor Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill introduced it “because Pennsylvania needs to see action on actual reforms that will improve an election system that has been severely tried and tested in recent years.”
“We believe reform begins with prohibiting private groups from funding election administration. Voting is among our basic rights, and the responsibility for properly running and funding elections is vested in government,” Baker added, according to the outlet.
“No matter who on the outside is contributing, no matter their expressed motivations, millions of dollars coming in from national figures or organizations naturally raises suspicions of hidden agendas,” she said.
The Federalist noted further that Wolf’s signing of the bill was surprising to some because members of his office reportedly actively colluded with “left-wing activists to secure millions in private money to run get-out-the-vote efforts in blue counties” throughout the state ahead of the 2020 election, the outlet reported separately:
As reported by The Federalist’s Senior Legal Correspondent Margot Cleveland, during an April hearing held by the Pennsylvania legislature, state lawmakers heard public testimony revealing that “beginning in July 2020, consultants working for leftist organizations coordinated with local election officials and Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s office to lobby five blue counties to apply for these private grants,” with the funds originating from groups such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL).
A non-profit organization that was funded largely by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to the tune of some $400 million, CTCL played a major role in “altering state and local election operations in battleground states across the country” during the previous election cycle, the outlet reported, though the efforts are not being called into legal question, per se.
In Pennsylvania alone, the outlet continued, CTCL spent around $25 million in “Zuckbucks” with the “5 biggest grants per capita in CTCL-funded counties” going to regions where Joe Biden won.
“CTCL gave grants to 10 of the 13 counties Biden won statewide, one of which (Erie County) flipped from Trump’s 2016 column. Together, these 10 counties received $20.8 million, or over 83 percent of all CTCL grants to Pennsylvania,” a Capital Research Center report found.
“In contrast, CTCL gave grants to 12 of the 54 counties Trump won statewide. These 12 counties received just $1.73 million, a mere 7 percent of all CTCL funds in the Keystone state,” the report added.