PA Lawmakers Debate Election Funding During Final Week Of 2021 Session

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HARRISBURG, PA. (Erie News Now) – Voting laws and election integrity have been at the center of many debates since the 2020 General Election.  

Lawmakers continue to debate matters surrounding election integrity and reform around the country, as well as the impact they might have.

Topics like ballot counting and duration, Voter ID, and election funding are at the forefront of policy discussions among lawmakers in many states since the 2020 election.

This week in Harrisburg, those debates were evident.

Democrats continued to oppose many Republican voting bills. Today, State Representative Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny) held a press conference with Democrat lawmakers to address the impacts she says the legislation would have.

One bill in particular, House Bill 2044, deals with election funding. The bill was introduced by Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland) and prevents county election offices from receiving third-party grants and other private funding.

Republicans argue that there can’t be free, fair, and uniform elections in the future with outside funding only being granted to certain districts.

“Forest County, Mifflin County, Fayette County, Clinton County, Sullivan County- all the poorest counties in this state, all the lowest income counties and none of them received money from Facebook for their election,” said bill sponsor Rep. Eric Nelson.

“It’s a big deal, and so we have to look at this fundamentally as far as a state: do we want to be privately funding our elections or do we want to fund them ourselves?” said State Representative Clint Owlett (R-Bradford)

Owlett says uniformity is essential in regard to election funding and is not a fan of third-party grants.

“That’s a terrible policy, terrible precedence to be put into place. And if we just continue to allow that to happen, who knows what it could look like 15-20 years from now,” said Owlett. “We have to run our elections free and fair and uniform without outside influence, period.”

Democrats tell a different story and say that HB 2044 is one of several that aims to restrict voting access to minority communities.

“The only problem Republicans have with outside incursions into our elections is when it possibly enfranchises certain voters; the poor ones, the black ones, the brown ones- in certain counties; the blue ones,” said Rep. Kinkead (D-Allegheny)

“People are upset that folks in Philadelphia County, Delaware County and other counties were given the access to vote,” said Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia), referring to Republican lawmakers.

“We’re acting like, these things aren’t new,” said Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) “We’re not funding it correctly to begin with,” he continued.

HB 2044 passed the House on Tuesday and now awaits consideration in the State Senate.


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