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PA Nonprofit Involved in Controversial 2020 Election Grants Now Making Donations to Democrat-aligned PACs

(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.)

A relatively new nonprofit that orchestrated the distribution of grants to county election offices all across Pennsylvania in the runup to the 2020 presidential vote has recently made donations to Democratic-aligned political action committees, further undercutting the organization’s own claims it is nonpartisan.

The revelations shed more light on a nonprofit that, while launched in the Trump era, has remained active and has hosted voter registration parties in Bucks County in advance of Tuesday’s special election for House District 140. Those parties have included live bands with giveaways like free coffee and funnel cakes, and “amazing prizes like couches and coolers!”

According to its website, “The Voter Project is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring all Pennsylvania voters can cast a ballot in a safe, secure, and convenient way.” The project is organized as a 501(c)4, meaning it is a nonprofit, but it can engage in certain activities that a 501(c)3 could not.

The Voter Project’s disclosures with the IRS show a $35,000 donation to Agenda PAC in late October, 2022. It was the second largest donation Agenda PAC received in the federal reporting cycle from 2021-22, representing about fifteen percent of Agenda PACs total fundraising haul in that same period.

Agenda PAC, meanwhile, spent between $9,000 to $11,500 on Youtube ads promoting the Democratic slates of candidates in the 2023 school board races in Pennridge and Central Bucks, according to Youtube’s library of political advertisements purchased on its platform.

In at least two of those Youtube ads, the narrator chastises the Central Bucks School Board, only to end with a graphic that promotes the slate of candidates in Pennridge, offering no explanation as to why the CBSD’s actions should influence the Pennridge races.

Agenda PAC also spent $100,000 in support of Sen. John Fetterman’s campaign.

Agenda PAC has come under recent scrutiny after a Daily Caller article revealed that the PAC, chaired by hasn’t filed any campaign finance reports for 2023.

The Voter Project, meanwhile, has recently become its own 501(c)4, but started off as a project of the Keystone Research Center, a left-of-center Harrisburg think tank.

The Voter Project and its board president, Kevin Mack, were instrumental in distributing election grants to counties in the runup to the 2020 by a Chicago-based nonprofit, the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL).

After Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan gave $350 million to the CTCL in September of 2020, Republicans alleged the project was a Trojan Horse to increase turnout in heavily Democratic districts and dubbed the entire project “Zuckerbucks.”

A Broad + Liberty analysis from 2021 showed the grants distributed in Pennsylvania that year were in fact heavily skewed towards “blue” voting counties like Philadelphia, Allegheny, Delaware, and Centre.

Although the CTCL never responded to any inquiries from Broad + Liberty, it has generally countered these claims by saying that after the Zuckerberg grants were received, the CTCL transitioned the grants from invitation only to an open call. Therefore, CTCL has argued that Republican-leaning counties that received small awards nevertheless largely received 100 percent of their grant request.

While that may be true, it is also true that many of the Democratic counties in Pennsylvania that received large awards were given those grants prior to the open call — a time when “red” counties had no means at all of applying for or receiving the grants.

Before the “open call” portion of the granting process, The Voter Project and the CTCL worked exclusively with blue counties for grant awards, with the lone exception of Republican-leaning Bucks County. In that instance, then-Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar personally reached out to Bucks County commissioners to see if they would be interested in taking a grant. Boockvar has never explained why she was authorized to reach out to Bucks County to make the invitation, or why Bucks County was chosen at a time when other counties were shut out.

Months after the 2020 election, Mack, whose main job is as a partner for a political-mail consulting agency in Washington D.C., wrote on his corporate biography page that he had “served as Lead Strategist for The Voter Project in Pennsylvania which was instrumental in signing up over 3.2 million people to vote by mail and leading the soft-side effort to win the swing state in 2020,” (emphasis added).

Mack’s employment with the D.C.-based firm Deliver Strategies has also played a prominent role in how The Voter Project has spent its money. According to the most recent IRS 990 form for The Voter Project, it spent $4.3 million with Deliver Strategies.

On the same form, the nonprofit addressed any potential ethical concerns by saying, “This was an arms-length vendor relationship and The Voter Project relied on outside individuals and organizations to advise on overall spending, budgets and fees for services.”

Mack’s partner at Deliver Strategies, Fiona Conroy, is a director at a 501(c)4 political nonprofit called Project Keystone, which is a polling consortium for Democratic candidates and causes.

In addition to giving the $35,000 to Agenda PAC, The Voter Project has also given grants to two D.C.-based organizations, Pennsylvania Progress, and Pennsylvania Forward. Those two political nonprofits share the same principal officer and address. While Pennsylvania Progress’ mission statement is to “PROVIDE NONPARTISAN VOTE BY MAIL EDUCATION IN PENNSYLVANIA” the mission statement for Pennsylvania Forward is “TO ADVOCATE FOR PROGRESSIVE POLICIES IN PENNSYLVANIA[.]”

The Voter Project’s 990 does not indicate any grants to any organizations that could arguably be characterized as right of center.

Deliver Strategies no longer publishes work biographies of its employees, nor of its extensive client list, which is exclusively Democratic candidates and left-of-center organizations, such as unions.

Mack did not return a request for comment on donations made by The Voter Project.

LUCAS: Beating an Incumbent Politician Is Tough — But It Can Be Done

Almost any election is, by nature, a referendum on the incumbent. But the 2024 presidential election has two incumbents of sorts.

Incumbents generally have an automatic name recognition and fund-raising advantage. However, a challenger can triumph if the contest is about the incumbent’s shortcomings, Swiss political consultant Louis Perron explains in his new book “Beat the Incumbent: Proven Strategies and Tactics to Win Elections.”

President Biden is the actual incumbent going into a likely 2020 rematch with predecessor Donald Trump, who has been a de facto incumbent in the primary season, maintaining an overwhelming lead over Republican contenders.

“Every election is different, but every election is the same,” said Perron, who has advised campaigns in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, Ukraine, Malaysia and the Philippines, ranging from mayoral to presidential candidates. “Candidates used to argue over opinions; now they argue over facts. But the basics of elections never change. Candidates have to have a strong message and good crisis management.”

He noted the two previous U.S. incumbents — Barack Obama and George W. Bush — mastered this in dispatching their challengers, John Kerry and Mitt Romney.

“Elections are naturally a referendum on the incumbent, but the challenger has to keep it as a referendum on the incumbent,” who earned a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University and a doctorate from the University of Zurich. “An incumbent has to be brutal and do damage to the challenger as Bush did and as Obama did.”

The book asserts the recommendations are applicable across various countries and political offices.

It also describes how Obama’s first campaign in 2008 painted opponent John McCain as a Republican insider tied to an unpopular incumbent as McCain tried to sell a maverick image; how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky managed to win a landslide despite being a first-time candidate for office; and how François Hollande never let the pressure off incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in winning the French presidency.

In laying out a blueprint, it would seem to have some similarities with the famous Allan Lichtman book “Keys to the Presidency,” which lays out a specific formula to predict which candidate wins. But the Perron book is also a how-to manual, rooted in history and political science, with chapter titles such as “The Secrets of Selling Change,” “The Best Challenger Campaign Messaging Ever,” and concluding with “Final Word and Checklist.”

After Iowa, GOP candidates learned the insurmountable difficulty of beating a de facto incumbent, but polls have shown New Hampshire is closer, depending on which poll you read.

“One reason Nikki Haley is a safer choice for Republicans in New Hampshire is because a challenger is better positioned if the election is a referendum on the incumbent,” he said.

He anticipates Trump will close the deal on the Republican nomination with a New Hampshire victory. However, New Hampshire might not hold the final say. He points to the 1976 Republican presidential primary as an example where a challenger can gain momentum late. In that case, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford.

“Ford ultimately won, but it was very close,” he said. “What’s so surprising about 1976 is how long it took Reagan to catch steam. But once he did, he won a string of primary victories.”

In 1976, Ford won in Iowa, New Hampshire and four more contests and appeared likely to cruise to the nomination. Then Reagan turned the tide by winning North Carolina and several other states. The contest went back and forth, and it was a contested Republican National Convention, where Ford prevailed.

Still, the historical anomaly could prompt either Haley, a former United Nations ambassador, to hold out hope of unseating the quasi-incumbent Trump.

In a general election, Trump and Biden are so disliked that the “double haters” could decide the outcome, Perron said.

“If the focus is on Trump, Biden will win. If the focus is on Biden, Trump will win,” he said.

POPRIK: Lessons Learned from 2022 Election Cycle

As we end the year and the 2022 election cycle, it is important that we look back at the most important lessons and takeaways.  The next election is never too far away, and 2022 can teach us a lot of what success looks like for the Republican Party here in Southeast Pennsylvania in 2023.

First, let’s look at the results here in Bucks County. After years of failing to beat our Republican state representatives and senators at the ballot box, Democrats took it upon themselves to try and beat us through the redistricting process. The maps they produced were a blatant partisan power grab.

Despite the best efforts of Harrisburg Democrats, Bucks County elected five Republican state representatives and two Republican state senators this year.  This represents a critical voting bloc in a Pennsylvania House which, as I write this, is under Democratic control by just a single seat. Maintaining this presence for our party in the House is just one of the keys to judging our success in 2022.

This success was due in no small part thanks to the next topic I’d like to discuss, which is candidate quality. This election proved that after all this time, candidate quality is still an absolutely crucial factor in a campaign’s success. Here in Bucks County, we were proud to have a wonderful slate of candidates up and down the ballot, who worked hard and fought every day to represent our community and its values.

When the new Pennsylvania House and Senate and U.S. Congress are sworn in, Bucks County will be home to the majority of Republican state representatives and senators in our region, and the only Republican congressman to represent the Delaware Valley.  This is thanks in part to the quality of men and women who go out and make their case to their neighbors on behalf of themselves and the party.

The final important lesson we must take away from 2022, and one that I am hopeful we as a party are quickly learning, is the clear need to make better use of early voting. While I would like to see Act 77 repealed as much as the next person, we must recognize that early voting is not going away any time soon.

For too long, too many in our party refused to make use of early voting, whether in person at your local Board of Elections office, or by mail. Democrats start with hundreds of thousands of votes in the bank, and we spend just one day playing catch up. Here in Bucks County, we started an early vote program back in 2021, and have seen great success. It’s time to expand that across the Commonwealth.

As we all prepare for our county and local elections in 2023, we cannot soon forget the lessons from both our successes and failures in 2022. We know what we must do to win, and we are fired up and ready to go in the new year.

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TOOMEY: Farewell to the Senate (Part Three)

I hope you will indulge me for just a few moments to make a couple of other recommendations. I have got one for my Republican colleagues; I have got one for my Democratic colleagues—mostly for my Democratic colleagues— and two for this institution that we have had this privilege to serve in.

For my Republican colleagues, let me just say, our party can’t be about or beholden to any one man. We are much bigger than that. Our party is much bigger than that. We are the political representation of this huge center-right coalition across America. On a good day, that is more than half of Americans.

And I hope we resist the temptation to adopt the protectionist, nativist, isolationist, redistributive policies that some are suggesting we embrace. I think those are inconsistent with the core values of a majority of the people in this coalition. More importantly, I think those ideas lead to bad outcomes for our country.

For my Democratic colleagues, I have heard many of you passionately— and I believe sincerely—declare your determination to defend our democracy, but I would suggest we all remember that democracy requires much more than the ease of voting in an election.

Elections are absolutely necessary, but they are an insufficient condition for a truly democratic society. Elections really are a means to an end; they are not the end themselves. The end, or purpose, of elections is to provide the mechanism of account ability of the government to the people whose consent is our sole source of legitimacy.

When we hand over Congress’s responsibilities to unelected and, therefore, unaccountable parts of our government—be that the courts or independent regulators or executive branch agencies—we really undermine our democracy, which, of course, is really our Republic, because we weaken the accountability of our government.

Now, look, both sides have done this over time, but I would just hope we could all agree that preserving more responsibility and, therefore, accountability for the legislative branch of government is a good thing for our Republic.

And then two suggestions for this amazing, historic institution. The first one—and it is the most important one: Please keep the filibuster. It is the only mechanism that forces bipartisan consensus. It prevents government governance from the extremes. By forcing bipartisanship, it results in more durable legislation and so lessens the likelihood of big swings in policies. It provides stability for our constituents. And if you want to see more polarization, get rid of the filibuster and we will have much more polarization.

The second thought I had that I wanted to share with you is, I think we can all agree that the Senate has not been functioning as well as it once did and as it really should. I don’t think too many committees are producing too much legislation the old-fashioned way. The old-fashioned way was actually a pretty good vetting process for developing legislative ideas. And when legislation does get to the floor, typi- cally, there are very few substantive amendments that are allowed to be considered.

The result is, as a body, it is very difficult for us to discover whether and where there might be a consensus. I know there are a lot of reasons for this, including political polarization, reasons why the Senate behaves in a way that tends to block debate and voting.

But there might be some relatively modest tweaks in Senate rules that might just facilitate restoring some of what used to be normal functioning. I know a lot of you have done a lot of work in this and that work is still underway. Let me suggest you considerone small tweak, a small but important technical change to a rule, the rule which enables the obstruction of the body.

I am not talking about the filibuster but, rather, the rule that effectively requires unanimous consent, in most cases, to allow a vote on an amendment, any amendment, even a germane amendment.

I can tell you, most Pennsylvanians are very surprised to learn that in order for a Senator to get a vote on almost anything, he or she needs the permission of every other Senator. I don’t think this rule is workable any longer, and it contributes to the dysfunction.

So I have just got a simple idea: Consider raising the threshold for blocking an amendment to some number greater than one.

Now, I support the filibuster because I think it is reasonable for 41 Senators to be able to block legislation. It just doesn’t seem reasonable for one. So I don’t know what the right number is, and I am not religious about this. Maybe it is 10. Maybe it is 20. Maybe it is 50. But I would just suggest that this body consider somehow raising the bar of preventing the Senate from functioning. There may be better ways to do it, but that is one suggestion.

Let me conclude with this: You know, we have all inherited something really, really, truly special. I know we all appreciate that, the fact that we live in the greatest country in the history of humanity and that we serve in this amazing legislative body.

I suspect we all get asked—I know I get asked from time to time—some version of the question: How worried are you about our country’s future?  And, often, there is some combination of national security, political polarization, and the future of our economy that is the primary concern of the people posing the question.

My short reply is usually: Look, we have gotten through much tougher times. But think about it. I think that is so true, and it is important to remember.

On national security, we have got real threats out there. Russia is obviously led by a violent, dangerous bully. The Chinese Communist Party is a rising and increasingly aggressive threat. But nowhere do we face the imminent threats that we faced during World War II and at several moments during the Cold War.

And we are polarized, and it is uncomfortable and it is problematic; but, in 1968, we had political assassinationsand cities were being burned down. And this Chamber, this very Chamber we are in right now, first opened its doors in 1859. Imagine living through the decade that followed that.

As for the economy, look, there are always risks to any economy. Ours is no exception. I think inflation is a significant problem. There is a possibility we have a recession next year. We have huge and growing national debt, and I think that is going to be a real challenge for us.

But I think it is worth remembering this: The vast majority of Americans have a much higher standard of living today than our parents did when they were our age. And a rising standard of living is, after all, the purpose of economic growth.

So I always answer that question about America’s future with the truth, and that is that, despite our challenges, I am extremely bullish on America. And I think my optimism is easily justified by our history.

America has always been able to survive and thrive, and America remains the greatest nation in the history of the world. If we keep on being Americans, we will remain the greatest nation on the planet.

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BACKER: Which Costs More and Scares You Less — Halloween or the 2022 Election?

Many Americans will spend October stoking fear and building tension, with no shortage of blood-curdling screams. Then there’s Halloween.

Over two years, more than $9 billion will be spent on Election 2022. Money will be thrown at Americans to get them to choose between political candidates and parties, just like it will be spent on Marvel costumes, candy corn and the rest. Between the midterm elections and Halloween celebrations, U.S. spending will total upward of $20 billion, dominating public discourse.

While Halloween spending is driven by market demand and impervious to criticism (as it should be), election-related spending drives some people crazy. Spending money to promote your ideas is far scarier than Halloween to those whose ideas your particular spending may oppose.

Campaign finance “reform” is now a priority of the Democratic Party, with End Citizens United spokesman Adam Bozzi claiming “it’s both good policy and good politics.” (Side note: End Citizens United, as a nonprofit organization, does not disclose its donors.)

The left’s insistence on shutting down free speech and free association is strangely obsessive when it comes to politics. It seems like only speech and association that has to do with the electoral system and the democratic process are worth condemning, despite the fact that they form the very foundations of our democracy.

What is democracy but your freedom to organize and communicate on behalf of your ideas? And yes, meaningful communication requires spending money — something Democrats have no problem with so long as their ideas are communicated.

But, as long as you’re not spending money on politics, it’s quite all right. And, yes, a Marvel Halloween is quite all right. Consumerism is a good thing, just like money in politics is a good thing. In fact, American politics needs more money in it, not less, because political spending is associated with the free flow of ideas. It reflects public discourse in the idea marketplace, with the most popular ones (like Marvel) dominating the discourse while the least popular ones (sorry Green Lantern) ultimately fade away. Similarly, candy choices with the most appeal attract the most consumer dollars, while the organic alternatives get thrown away.

That’s the whole point. The market is the ultimate freedom: Taking the product of your own hard work (or that of your parents) and spending it on whatever ideas — or candy — you may choose.  In politics, good ideas attract money, just like sugary candy attracts the most kids.

Winning candidates and political parties draw attention from donors large and small. Of course, losing ones (i.e., Michael Bloomberg) can flood the political system with billions of dollars, but money is no guarantee of victory. Bloomberg knows that better than most, and plenty of candy ideas are just as flawed. But some people liked Bloomberg, and the “top 10 worst candies ever” list is admittedly rife with my childhood favorites!

So why shouldn’t we be free to choose, in any marketplace, what’s right for us?

No amount of money will get Americans to embrace ideas that aren’t actually popular, just like you can’t pay me enough to eat Hot Tamales for Halloween.

The amount of money in politics is a barometer of civic engagement writ large, and civic engagement is inherently beneficial to democracy. A democratic system can’t function without it. The more money spent, the more people are engaged, and the more ideas compete to curry favor in the marketplace. Like in the U.S. economy and on candy shelves, competition leads to greater consumer choice and personal freedom.

Here’s a tip leading to Election Day: Don’t listen to those crying wolf about political spending. Keep dressing up as Spiderman, keep eating your Skittles, and keep contributing to American democracy.

Free speech and free association are every bit as sweet as candy corn.

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GOP Files Lawsuit to Ensure Election Integrity in PA Midterms

With only weeks until the important midterm elections, the acting secretary of state ordered counties to disregard a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court requiring mail-in and absentee ballot envelopes to be signed and dated.

On Oct. 11, acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman sent a directive to county election officials saying the high court’s order was “not based on the merits of the issue.”

“It provides no justification for counties to exclude ballots based on a minor omission and we expect that counties will continue to comply with their obligation to count all legal votes,” Chapman wrote in that directive.

The state and national Republican committees, along with some voters, are crying foul.

They filed a “King’s Bench” lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to order Chapman to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s order.

In a joint statement, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer, and Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas said, “As the Pennsylvania legislature and U.S. Supreme Court have made clear, undated mail-in ballots should not be counted. Republicans are holding Pennsylvania Democrats accountable for their brazen defiance of the (U.S.) Supreme Court and the rules duly set by the legislature. Pennsylvania Democrats have a history of election integrity failures and Pennsylvanians deserve better: this lawsuit is the latest step in Republican efforts to promote free, fair, and transparent elections in the Keystone State.”

In May 2022 the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled ballots with undated envelopes should be counted. The issue stemmed from the close Republican primary that resulted in a lawsuit between Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.

The 3rd Circuit panel held that handwritten dates on the envelopes do not affect voters’ eligibility. Also, that court ruled voters’ civil rights would be violated if their ballots were tossed due to the omission of a date.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that finding and upheld Pennsylvania’s election law as written.

The mail-in ballots have been a bone of contention since Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law, Act 77 that permits no-excuse absentee ballots. While the legislature passed that law with a bipartisan vote, many Republican lawmakers now believe it should be changed, especially since former President Donald Trump blamed mail-in ballots and drop boxes as part of the reason he lost the state of Pennsylvania to President Joe Biden in 2020. However, court challenges to Act 77 have failed to overturn that law, which remains in place.

Wolf appointed Chapman as acting secretary in January. At that time, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McSwain, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, decried her as someone too partisan to be confirmed by the legislature. Chapman had previously worked for Deliver My Vote, which is nonpartisan under the tax code; McSwain noted its “founders are on record saying they are pushing mail-in voting to help Democrats” get elected. Deliver My Vote promotes mail-in balloting that “specifically favors Democrats,” said McSwain.

The GOP suit asks the court to order counties to segregate any undated ballots from ballots filed correctly. While some counties plan to do that, others do not which would result in “unequal treatment” of voters, violating the constitution.

“Any counting of ballots that the General Assembly has declared invalid—and the lack of statewide uniformity in the treatment of undated or incorrectly dated ballots—are eroding public trust and confidence in the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections at a vital moment in the nation’s and the Commonwealth’s history,” the suit said. “The court therefore should take immediate action to uphold the General Assembly’s date requirement and to set aside the secretary’s invalid guidance.”

Liz Preate Havey, chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, said Montgomery County will segregate ballots with errors.

“It just leads to more and more distrust. We do have these drop boxes where we’ve seen time and time again, we have video, where over 100 people doing multiple drops in one election cycle. We’re just asking for reasonable election integrity measures to be in place,” said Havey.  If there is a problem with someone’s mail-in ballot, they can go to their polling place and vote by provisional ballot.

“The Bucks County Board of Elections will segregate ballots arriving in misdated and undated envelopes. Those ballots will be included in reported vote totals, but will be scanned separately so those votes can be subtracted if necessary,” said a county spokesman.

James Allen, director of Voter Services for Delaware County said, “We will handle this the same way we did during the Primary. We will process the ballots from undated envelopes in a separate batch, so that if we receive yet another court ruling or different guidance from the Department of State, we would have the option to back out that batch.”

“It’s still too early to give a definitive answer on how Chester County will proceed.  The Board is considering the status of the law in Pennsylvania and will make a decision soon,” said Rebecca Brain, a spokeswoman for the county.

Republican Guy Ciarrocchi, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester), criticized her for a voter education town hall with Chapman that Houlahan held on October 13.

“The chief elections’ official in Pennsylvania has defied the US Supreme Court—and, then directed every county join her in defiance. She then spoke at the Houlahan town hall—essentially a campaign event. Chapman has failed in her primary duty—to be an impartial election official to instill trust.

Houlahan has shown bad judgment in using taxpayers’ money for the event—and, compounded the error by having Chapman speak at her town hall. Sadly, Houlahan continues to act like a partisan politician; not the bipartisan problem solver she alleges in her ads. Actions speak louder than words,” Ciarrocchi said.

Houlahan’s campaign spokesperson, Shane Wolfe said, “This criticism is not only wrong on the merit, but seems to come from a place of misunderstanding the job of our public servants. The town hall had absolutely nothing to do with politics or campaigning. It did have to do with public servants doing their jobs to make themselves available and inform the public — regardless of party affiliation — about how to safely and securely exercise their right to vote. If election officials should not answer these questions now, when voters have questions, when should they?”

In a press release after the town hall, Houlahan said, “Representing a purple community means educating all community members, regardless of political affiliation, on how to cast their ballot. Last night, we had a straightforward conversation about the voting process and answered questions on a wide range of concerns. I will continue to share resources with all constituents who reach out, and I encourage all eligible Pennsylvanians to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

Chapman did not respond to requests for comment.

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GIDLEY: New Bipartisan PA Law Bans ‘Zuckerbucks,’ But Voters Still Vulnerable

It is a politically charged and divisive time in America. So, it’s rare when elected officials from both sides of the aisle come together and agree to enact changes that positively affect the American people.

But the Pennsylvania legislature just did.

It has passed, and Gov. Tom Wolf has signed, a new law that bans private money from being used for elections by state election officials in an unequal, unfair, political manner. Those dollars are commonly known as “Zuckerbucks.”

Voters across the country overwhelmingly want election integrity. Recent Rasmussen polling shows bipartisan support in the 80th percentile for measures like requiring photo I.D., cleaning up voter rolls, and mandating the return of all ballots to election officials by Election Day. That’s not surprising when you consider people on the political right, left, and everywhere in between have been complaining about the election process for decades.

And while the concerns about hanging chads and dimpled ballots of the 2000 presidential election have been replaced by fears about unsolicited mass mail-in ballots and unsecured, unmonitored ballot drop boxes, the American people’s faith, trust, and confidence in the election process are at all-time lows. In fact, only 53 percent are confident that American elections are conducted in a manner that ensures all votes are counted and that the proper winners are declared in each election.

Compelling testimony in Pennsylvania’s legislative committee hearings allowed members to learn about errors from past elections, review raw evidence regarding unequally allocated funds, and—something so few do—listen to the voices of their constituents. Elected officials there realized the need for voter protection measures and decided to act on it.

In response to these positive developments, America First Policy Institute’s Center for Election Integrity (CEI) upgraded Pennsylvania in its online, color-coded, interactive map. The commonwealth that once held a low ranking has now moved up.

CEI grades each state based on four significant election integrity measures: (1) photo identification requirements to vote, (2) returning ballots to election officials by election day, (3) the prohibition of ballot harvesting, and (4) the tiebreaker, banning Zuckerbucks. States are in the red category when few to none of these policies are in place, yellow means some have been implemented, and green states have most or all the policies in place. For a complete methodology regarding the map, click here.

The recent law is a step in the right direction as Pennsylvania has gone from red to yellow on the CEI map. But that does not yet make it a beacon of voter protection. In fact, the state must plug some significant policy holes to emerge as an election integrity leader and restore people’s trust in the election process. Issues widely reported in Delaware County illustrate precisely what must change if the state is to secure its elections better.

Local and national news reports showed in 2020, the county encountered a “wide array of problems with election integrity, including on-tape admissions that the election laws were not complied with, that 80 percent of provisional ballots lacked proper chain-of-custody, that there were missing removable drives for some of the voting machines, and that election workers ‘recreated’ new drives to respond to the Right to Know request.

A whistleblower’s hidden video shows significant interference by people identified as election officials in the county, including one man knowingly asking another person to commit “a felony.” Data there also show voting machines accepted and tallied ballots scanned from other precincts in the county, rendering ballot reconciliation impossible.

While there are obvious documented problems in Delaware County and beyond, they are fixable with good policy.

One of the most important policy measures to help achieve free, fair, and honest elections is requiring government-issued photo identification to vote. It’s supported by 85 percent of Americans because they understand simply proving you are who you say you are when you cast a ballot, helps protect every legal vote and every legal voter.

Some on the left claim this policy will “suppress turnout,” but the data from the 2022 primaries in Georgia shows the exact opposite. In early voting, there was a 168 percent increase from the 2018 gubernatorial primary and a 212 percent jump above the 2020 presidential primary in Georgia.

In 2021, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill requiring photo identification to vote; however, the governor vetoed that measure, ignoring 74 percent of Pennsylvanians who support photo identification.

It’s clear the vast majority of Pennsylvanians support election integrity reforms. If their voices are heard and their concerns addressed, the Keystone state will ultimately be a place where it’s easy to vote but hard to cheat.

MENSCH: Ensuring Election Integrity Has Never Been More Important

Americans are debating an array of contentious issues. As profound as they are, none of those debates can be truly settled without an election process the people trust.

The bad news is, most Pennsylvanians say they are dissatisfied with the way elections are conducted in the state, according to a May 2022 Franklin and Marshall poll.

The good news is, we’re a step closer to giving the people the power to restore confidence in Pennsylvania’s election process.

The General Assembly passed two proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution addressing elections. If approved again in the 2023-24 legislative session, the questions will be put on the ballot for voters to decide. One of these amendments would require all voters to present a valid form of identification prior to voting. This would apply to voting in person or by mail.

Valid ID would include any government-issued identification. To ensure no voter is prevented from participating in the election process, anyone without a valid ID could receive one at no cost.

Pennsylvania is woefully behind the times when it comes to requiring voter ID. Thirty-five other states require some form of voter ID, and studies show that states where voter ID was implemented have not seen a drop-off in voter participation in any demographic.

When asked, citizens have consistently said they want voter ID. A Franklin and Marshall poll last year found that 74 percent of Pennsylvanians support requiring voters to present identification to vote. A separate proposed amendment would require the General Assembly to provide for audits of elections, including the administration of elections and the results.

The work would be performed by the state Auditor General, who is elected independently by the voters. In years when the Auditor General is on the ballot, the election audit would be conducted by a separate, independent auditor.

Election audits would provide transparent and fact-based analysis of election results, giving voters across the political spectrum assurance that elections are fair and accurate.

In addition to moving these constitutional questions one step closer to voters, the General Assembly passed Act 88 to get private money out of the administration of our elections. The legislation was created in response to the use of grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election.

Even if you’ve never heard of CTCL, you’ve heard of one of its chief financial backers: billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Correspondence between CTCL, the Wolf Administration, and county officials demonstrates that millions of dollars in “Zuckerbucks” were directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.

Common sense tells us that using private funding to pay for the administration of elections is going to undermine confidence in the process, so we banned it. However, counties do face substantial costs related to primary and general elections, and we ensured the state will help them do it right.

The new law creates grants for counties to cover costs such as hiring and training staff, printing ballots, and managing voting machines and tabulation equipment.

In return, counties that accept the money are required to take several critical steps to ensure the integrity of the process. They must clean up voter rolls, including removing deceased voters and report the total number of voters registered prior to an election. They must disclose the number of mail-in votes received within four hours of polls closing and ensure the safekeeping of all ballots. Finally, counties must count ballots on Election Day without interruption.

Our republic began in Pennsylvania, and we’re taking the lead in keeping it healthy and strong. Act 88 and the above constitutional amendments make up one of the most significant election integrity packages enacted in America.

Passions are running high across Pennsylvania and the nation. People need to know we can resolve our differences peacefully through the election process. Such resolution can only occur when the integrity of the process is assured. We can do it, and it’s my hope that soon the voters themselves will play a key role in providing it.

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SAMMIN: Pennsylvania Needs Ranked-Choice Voting

In the polls for Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race this year, no candidate has reached thirty percent. In the Senate contest, the same situation prevails. The candidates we say are “winning” based on poll results only claim the support of about a quarter of Pennsylvania Republicans, at best.

Depending on who earns the top spot in the actual vote next week, that might be just fine. Most of the candidates are normal enough Republicans, and in a perfect world, all GOP voters will rally around the chosen nominee. But that is not necessarily what will happen. If a candidate is far enough outside the mainstream, a party minority might hijack the ballot slot and lose a great many votes.

In other states, this would be impossible. States like Louisiana, California, and Washington use a two-round system of voting with all candidates competing in one primary. A general election follows between the top two vote-earners. Alaska will do something similar starting this year — the top four candidates will advance to the general election and voters will choose among them with ranked-choice voting.

That last scenario is more applicable to a state like Pennsylvania. Here, a California-style primary would retain all the problems of our current system, with the winners likely being one Democrat and one Republican, neither of whom is certain to command the support of his entire party. But if each party instead selected its nominees in a more consensus-based method, the following general election would be more like what we usually want to happen: each party puts forth a candidate that represents a majority of its party members.

One way to do this is to abolish primaries altogether and have party members select nominees at a convention. Virginia Republicans selected their gubernatorial candidate this way in 2021. Glenn Youngkin had the support of only 32.9 percent of convention delegates on the first ballot, but when the lowest vote–earners were eliminated from the ballot in each of five further rounds of voting, the delegates got to consider where to shift their support. In the sixth round, Youngkin claimed victory with a majority of delegates’ votes. He went on to defeat the Democratic candidate (chosen by primary ballot in the usual way), with his party — and many independents and even Democrats — rallying to his cause.

The convention system creates an opportunity for party members to discuss their choices and arrive at a consensus about who best represents the party — and who is likely to actually win the election. But conventions are somewhat limited, in that they are made up of the party members who are most active, and most willing to travel to a convention and spend days doing the party’s business.

If Pennsylvanians want to achieve that level of consensus while making it easier for the rank-and-file party members to participate, they could look to New York City’s recent shift to ranked-choice voting. New York City Democrats had to choose from among thirteen candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor in 2021. They used a ranked choice system, where voters were able to rank which candidates they liked in order of preference, rather than just choosing one of the thirteen. Lower-ranking candidates were eliminated, and the voters’ next preferences followed.

The result was a nominee, Eric Adams, who claimed more of a consensus mandate after eight rounds of counting (50.4 percent) than he did after the first round (30.7 percent). This system works especially well in primary elections. In a general election, sides are chosen, and few voters would say, for example, “I’ll vote for Clinton, but if she can’t win, I’ll pick Trump.” By November, it’s either-or, us-versus-them.

But in a primary like the one next week, Pennsylvania Republicans might have one preferred candidate, but would probably support others, as well. It is not uncommon to say, “David McCormick is my first choice, but I also like Jeff Bartos and Carla Sands.” In our current system, only the first choice matters. But that is not typically how we think about primary candidates, and it does not capture the complete picture of each voter’s sentiments.

It is too late to fix things this year, and since the state party establishment refused to endorse anyone, it is almost guaranteed that we will have senatorial and gubernatorial nominees who are backed by only a minority of primary votes. In 2024, Pennsylvania Republicans should do better. Whether through a convention or a ranked-choice primary, anything is better than the virtual crapshoot we are about to embark upon.

This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Why Americans Should Trust the Integrity of Our Elections

As state legislatures here in Florida and across the country reconvene, it’s evident that voters are polarized. Many Americans falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen, and some politicians are seizing upon Americans’ concerns about election security for their own personal gain. It is in our interest and our duty as Americans to put aside the partisan vitriol and understand that we have every reason to trust, and uphold, the integrity of our elections.

Ultimately, Americans should trust the integrity of our elections because they are safe, fair, and secure. More than that, our elections are one of the greatest expressions of our freedom as Americans.

I know firsthand that our elections work because these institutions make up the foundation of my American life. When Cuba was taken over by Fidel Castro and his communist regime, my family fled to America in search of freedom and the rule of law. In 1972, I was sworn in as a citizen in the old bandshell in downtown Miami, and as I took the oath of allegiance, I knew I wanted to be a part of the American dream and participate in the political process. I registered to vote and, as a teacher, enjoyed teaching students of all ages English, civics, and other subjects. I wanted everyone to see what I saw: That the promise of America was, and is, true and attainable, regardless of educational or socio-economic background.

In continuing my public service career in the Florida legislature, I ran for Congress in 1989 and was honored to become the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress. I wanted to help strengthen the traditions that enabled my American journey. In my almost 30 years serving in Congress, I had the privilege of being chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where I worked to defend our national security and our way of life.

As a Member of Congress, I had many opportunities to meet with young activists and dissidents who were doing more than seeking freedom for their countries. They believed in the idea of America. I was constantly amazed by their admiration for the American way—especially for our free, fair, and open elections. Because while it may seem commonplace and ordinary to us, having free elections is a part of what makes America exceptional. It’s something we should never take for granted. These dissidents told me so, firsthand.

And there’s a reason our system is the envy of so many: It works. Our elections in Florida run smoothly and securely, as Governor Ron DeSantis has explained. Just last October, the governor dismissed calls for an audit of our election results because Florida’s standard election integrity safeguards held and the election succeeded “with flying colors.” 

The integrity and uniqueness of American institutions are worth taking a step back and analyzing the claims made by election skeptics. Perhaps the results of the 2020 presidential election were not the result we wanted, but the truth is clear: President Joe Biden won. Even if we disagree with that outcome, it is our privilege and duty as patriotic Americans to accept the outcomes of free and fair elections and celebrate the peaceful transfer of power that is envied by many around the world.

All across the country, American officials are working hard to make sure voting access does not come at the expense of election integrity and that they are well-equipped to handle the challenges we’ll face in 2022 and beyond. It’s not just Florida doing this, either.

Utah, for instance, is controlled by Republicans from the governor’s mansion to both houses of the state legislature. Utah Republicans also created one of the most accessible election processes in the country, adopting a vote-by-mail system that reached 90 percent voter turnout in 2020. As one Republican elections official explained, “Utah really exemplifies the mantra of ‘Easy to Vote, Hard to Cheat’ with our elections.”

That’s part of why my family fled the brutal repression of the Castro regime, and that’s something I heard over and over again from dissidents fighting for freedom in their countries when I was a Member of Congress.

It’s time for Americans to unite and protect the integrity of our election system. We do that by continuing to create access to the polls while maintaining election security—and by respecting the outcomes of our elections.

Our democracy is unique and many around the world long for the freedoms and respect for the rule of law that we may take for granted. We should proudly defend and uphold our open, free, and fair election process.

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