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Senate Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: October 20, 2021 03:04 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker and Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill
To: All Senate members
Subject: Prohibiting Outside Groups from Contributing to Election Operations
Like you, we hold dear that free and fair elections must be conducted in a manner that is above reproach, deserving the full confidence and trust of every registered voter. 
Striving to attain the highest levels of integrity, we will soon introduce legislation to ban third-party entities from funding election operations at any level within our Commonwealth.  Private, non-government money must not have a role in how we conduct elections in Pennsylvania.  No matter how well-intended, such outside support has the potential to unduly influence election procedures, policies, staffing, and purchasing, which in turn may unfairly alter election outcomes.  Even more importantly, it stands to erode voter confidence in a pillar of our beloved democracy.
The 2020 Presidential Election saw non-governmental entities contribute hundreds of millions of dollars directly to counties to fund election operations across the nation, including numerous, select counties in Pennsylvania.  As noted during a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform, Philadelphia County received a $10 million dollar grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, representing nearly half of its $21 million operating budget for the year.   
Further, it has been reported that this funding was only secretly vetted by certain high-ranking officials from the executive branch who identified which counties should be invited to apply.  The public, county election directors, and elected officials were not afforded the privilege of examining the origins of this funding or its ties to various political affiliations and special interest groups.  When only designated or preferred counties benefit from outside money, without accountability, fairness and transparency suffer.  As only a few counties were granted access to private donations, this practice would also appear to contradict Article I, Section 5 of our state Constitution that declares, “Elections shall be free and equal.”
The duty of overseeing election operations rests with our Commonwealth and each of our 67 counties.  Outside groups, regardless of their motivations, cannot be afforded an opportunity to use their financial resources to influence election officials, policy, and procedures, during the conduct of election operations.  While entities across the political spectrum can and do engage in constructive efforts to educate voters as provided for in our federal and state Constitutions, the process of carrying out an election should be funded entirely by the government, so there is no question about the motives behind the distribution and use of money.
Please join us in re-affirming that funding our elections process is a core function of state government that must be resourced exclusively with taxpayer funds and safeguarded from the potentially corrupting influence of private financing.

Introduced as SB982