Pennsylvania Republican senators this week celebrated their chamber’s passage of two pieces of election security legislation.
One bill, sponsored by State Senator Cris Dush (R-Wellsboro), would prohibit the use of drop boxes to collect mail-in and absentee ballots. The other, sponsored by State Senators Lisa Baker (R-Dallas) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-Jacobus), would bar state or county employees from approving the use of private donations to fund election administration.
The drop-box measure passed the Senate with the backing of all 29 Republicans and the opposition of all 20 Democrats. Only 12 senators, all of them Democrats, opposed the ban on private funds for elections.
In 2019, Keystone State lawmakers enacted Act 77, which permitted residents to cast their votes by mail even if they were neither ill, injured, nor away from their voting district. While neither Act 77 nor any other statute authorized counties to set up ballot receptacles into which absentee voters could drop their ballots, the Democrat-controlled Supreme Court decreed in 2020 that such drop boxes could be used.
Since that time, critics of the policy have cited multiple video recordings and other evidence of alleged “ballot harvesting,” the practice of dropping off more than one absentee ballot, which Pennsylvania law generally prohibits.
As The Pennsylvania Daily Star reported last month, the Montgomery County Republican Committee (MCRC) confronted that county’s Democrat-run Election Board with video evidence that one woman had dropped handfuls of ballots into a drop box in Upper Dublin Township. Days later, county Chief Operating Officer Lee Soltysiak dismissed MCRC’s allegations in a letter stating that the woman who delivered the ballots had the appropriate authorization from those who filled out the ballots. But while the county maintained that the deliverer only dropped off ballots on behalf of residents living in the same household, as state law requires, the Pennsylvania Department of State does not regard a long-term care facility – where those voters lived – as a “household.”
Other counties at which ballot harvesting is alleged to have taken place include Lehigh, Lackawanna and Luzerne.
“Drop boxes are the least secure way to vote in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – period,” Dush said after his legislation passed. “Because drop boxes were written into law by the courts, the Senate is now taking steps to mitigate the negative effects of that action and restore the integrity of our elections.”
The bill to prohibit third-party monetary grants for electoral administration was occasioned by revelations that left-wing nonprofits, particularly the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), bestowed many such contributions on election bureaus in Pennsylvania and across the nation in 2020. (That year, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $350 million to CTCL.) The vast majority of the organization’s $22.5 million in grants to Pennsylvania counties went to those controlled by and largely populated by Democrats.
“We cannot claim to have free and fair elections when we know a large number of ballots are being cast illegally with the financial backing of partisan interests,” Senate Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) said in a statement. “Lawmakers have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution and ensure fair and equal representation for our citizens. Although we still have work to do to reach this goal, these bills bring us closer to making this mission a reality.”