Reps. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland), Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana) and Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter/) have introduced legislation to ensure equitable distribution and transparency of money that funds Pennsylvania’s elections.
“One of the most concerning events of the 2020 election were the millions spent in private, third-party election grants issued to select counties across Pennsylvania and around the country,” said Nelson. “The Center for Tech and Civic life (CTCL), a 501(c) (3) organization, created contracts for grants with county-level election officials using a $350 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Several grants were awarded to Pennsylvania cities, and select counties, totaling over $15 million across the Commonwealth.”
The House State Government Committee is holding numerous public hearings as a deep dive into Pennsylvania’s election process to ensure election integrity for all future elections. These hearings confirmed CTCL provided funding with private contracts dictating how counties would manage elections and the number of voting opportunities available to voters.
The money distributed for the election was uneven as some counties saw vast sums, while others received little to no money. The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that all eligible voters must be given equal access to their right to vote. Voting opportunities cannot differ based on where a person resides.
“I first learned of this practice during budget hearings and am appalled by the act,” said Struzzi, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Sadly, this activity is permitted thanks to a loophole in current law but is now being addressed through our legislation that will seal this gap shut for good. This is an affront to taxpayers and an assault on election integrity and must be stopped.”
This bill would prevent any reoccurrence of the unequal access to voting driven by non-public funds that were doled out in the previous election. County election officials would not be allowed to accept any private election funding. Instead, any interest groups that want to help defray the cost of elections in Pennsylvania would be permitted to contribute directly to the Department of State, which must then redistribute the funding evenly based on voting age population. The department will also be prevented from accepting any funding unless it is free from any policy-oriented conditions or restrictions.
“It is deeply disturbing to me, and to many people I represent, that outside organizations were permitted to ‘invest’ in our elections in this way,” Owlett said. “As we work to restore the people’s faith in our election processes, eliminating this type of grant funding from outsiders should be a top priority.”
Also under the bill, the Department of State’s expenditures on election advertising and promotion of voting opportunities would have to be invested equally across the Commonwealth based on voting age population.
Representative Eric Nelson
57th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Michelle Swab