Senate to Vote today on Bill to Prohibit Private Grants to Elections Offices

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“It’s time that the General Assembly step up to the plate and take responsibility for funding our elections, before cutting counties off at the knees.”

The Senate is expected to vote today on a bill prohibiting election officials from accepting private grant monies to defray election expenses. Livestream link is available here.

SB 982 prohibits election officials from accepting private funding to pay “for the registration of voters or the preparation, administration or conducting of an election in this Commonwealth.” This bill specifically excludes “a location for voting purposes” from the general prohibition on accepting private contributions – allowing private organizations to donate polling location sites.

Statement of Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Khalif Ali 

Election infrastructure is critical infrastructure, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the Pennsylvania legislature funds our elections. Right now, instead of trying to find ways to help counties afford the tremendous cost of conducting a safe and accurate election, the Senate is considering two bills that would limit where counties can seek the resources they need.

SB 982 would prevent state and local governments from seeking much-needed funding, even when the legislature fails to provide those critical funds. The bill does not guarantee that the legislature will provide required election funding; it only limits where counties can look for help when they need it.

Meanwhile, election workers have been under constant attack, receiving threats against themselves and their families and being maligned by those wanting to cast doubt on our elections. These threats of violence, coupled with the lack of adequate resources, is contributing to a mass exodus of election workers. Over the past two years, more than 20 counties saw a change in their top election professionals, and even more election staff have called it quits. Poll workers – who are already difficult to recruit – are becoming even more scarce as people rightfully worry that they are going to put themselves in danger by simply doing their jobs.

The General Assembly has neglected its duty to respond to this situation in any meaningful way, just as they have failed to respond to other election-related requests from the counties, like more time to precanvass absentee and mail ballots and clarifying some of the vote-by-mail provisions of Act 77, which passed with strong bipartisan support. Instead, they’re focusing on entertaining conjecture and conspiracy theories and creating a nightmare for our hard-working elections professionals. 

Elections should be robustly funded at every level of government – local, federal, and state. Each governmental entity responsible for appropriating funds for our critical infrastructure has a duty to ensure that our elections are fully funded, yet the state legislature has continually passed this responsibility off to the counties. It’s time that the General Assembly step up to the plate and take responsibility for funding our elections, before cutting counties off at the knees.