|By Reps. Seth Grove (R-York), Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland), Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana)
and Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter)
We couldn’t agree more with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial, “Well-run elections shouldn't depend on ‘Zuck Bucks,’” supporting a ban on the use of private dollars given by the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to fund the election of officials who direct public policy.
In fact, it has been our longstanding belief that private dollars should be barred from being used to fund elections since the House State Government Committee uncovered the issue during one of its 10 hearings on Pennsylvania’s elections.
We learned that $21 million in private grants were awarded to counites to fund public elections in 2020 alone, and more than half was directed to Philadelphia. This equaled to about $10 per voter, while most other counties received less than $1 per voter.
As if the perception of private dollars used to fund elections wasn’t alarming enough, it was later learned that Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, including disgraced former Pennsylvania Department of State Secretary Kathy Boockvar, directed counties with high numbers of Democratic voters to the grants. This partisanship appears to have aided the selective process when other counties, mostly Republican leaning, were unaware of the grants.
As the paper stated in its editorial “Pennsylvania should not allow outside groups to fund our elections. It reduces voters’ trust in the value in voting. Many Americans already suspect major institutions of working against them; it’s not wise to give them more reason.”
We agree this is an issue of trust voters have in the election system. That is why we have all signed on in support of, or in Rep. Eric Nelson’s case, sponsored, House Bill 2044
. The legislation would specifically prohibit any contribution to counties or the state for the purposes of operating elections, employing staff, equipping polling places or engaging in voter outreach.
The bill was approved by the House on strict party lines with every Democrat voting against and is now awaiting action in the Senate.
The paper also rightfully noted that the state must step in to help cover the costs counties incur to hold elections. To this end House Bill 1800
, the Voting Rights Protection Act, would require the state to reimburse counties 50% of the cost to run mail-in voting and 50% of costs to replace decertified voting machines. We expect counties to receive $117.5 million in state dollars to fund elections.
Had Wolf not vetoed the previous version of the bill (House Bill 1300)
, counties would have received the needed funding in the 2021 General Election and would receive it after the upcoming primary in May.
The General Assembly has a responsibility to ensure elections are run smoothly and fairly and free of the perception that outside private dollars are influencing how they are run. It is also our responsibility to help fund the elections. House Bill 2044 and the Voting Rights Protection Act accomplishes both.
Representative Seth Grove
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross