HARRISBURG – Legislation that would ban any county or Commonwealth employee from accepting outside money to pay for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate State Government Committee today, according to prime sponsors Sens. Lisa Baker (R-20) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28).
Senate Bill 982 was introduced to ensure fairness in our election process, after several counties received an infusion of funding from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election. The senators called into question the integrity of using outside funding to pay for a core function of government.
Further review of email correspondence between the Wolf Administration and officials with CTCL shed light on the fact that certain counties were steered towards this funding before other counties in the Commonwealth were made aware that any such monies would be available.
Baker, who was a member of the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity, raised concerns at a public hearing last year, that Philadelphia City Commissioners were unable to provide information regarding who funded the nonprofit grant. Philadelphia and its surrounding counties received more than $18 million from CTCL in the 2020 Election. Counties across the state received more than $22 million.
Baker emphasized that if the practice is not ended, it could set a very dangerous precedent for elections moving forward.
“Our legislation offers a direct, straight-forward clarification to the Pennsylvania Election Code,” Baker said. “Senate Bill 982 simply states what all of us understood to be fact – government should pay for elections. Voters, taxpayers and citizens alike deserve the most fair and equitable election system. It should be uniform from one county to the next regardless of size, demographics, or wealth.”
Phillips-Hill argued that the constitution calls for uniformity in our elections process. However, additional funding from outside groups to pay for elections operations has the ability to cast doubt on a constitutional right guaranteed to all voters of Pennsylvania.
“Our elections process is the bedrock of our Republic,” Phillips-Hill said. “Allowing funding from outside groups to pay for the administration of elections sets a very dangerous precedent. Evidence shows that government put its finger on the scale to drive these dollars to certain counties. The administration of our elections should be fair, equitable and above reproach. The only way to make that happen is to ban this dark money from funding our elections process and passing Senate Bill 982.”
Senate Bill 982 and its House companion legislation, House Bill 2044, advance to the full Senate for its consideration.