May 8, 2020
Media Contact: Megan R. Smith
Committee of Seventy Calls on PA Congressional Leaders to Support Additional Federal Funding to Ensure Safe and Secure Elections in the Commonwealth of PA in 2020
Local jurisdictions will bear the heaviest burden of protecting voters and workers from COVID-19. They need federal funding now.
PENNSYLVANIA – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the election landscape, preventing the spread of the virus poses an extraordinary challenge to state and local officials as they work to ensure that elections in 2020 are fair, safe, and secure. And though managing elections happens at the local and state level, urgent and critical reinforcement is now needed from the federal government.
In October 2019, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor passed historic election reform with Act 77, which allows for more convenient and secure voting. All registered voters can now vote by mail, citizens have more time to register to vote and to return their absentee or mail-in ballots, and every county has procured new voting systems with voter-verified paper trails. In light of the sudden pandemic and the challenges it presents, the Commonwealth also passed Act 12, which moved the primary to June 2.
The safety precautions our leaders and citizens have taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have provided both a challenge and an opportunity for us all to strengthen our local democracy. But the significant and rapid changes needed to bolster our election infrastructure and voting processes while protecting voters and poll workers will require additional resources. Thus, the Committee of Seventy is calling on Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation to invest $90 million to safeguard elections across the state in 2020.
Informed by the nonpartisan report coauthored by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, Pitt Cyber, and the R Street Institute, an estimated $90 million is urgently needed to administer safe and secure elections in 2020. Several essential needs highlighted in the report include widespread voter education for the state’s 8.5 million voters, health protection kits for polling sites, and additional staff and equipment to manage hundreds of thousands of voters casting ballots by mail.
Absent additional funding, these financial burdens will fall on county governments, many of which are already reeling. Without the funding, systems could break down and fail, a nightmare scenario that should, and can be, avoided.
“There is nothing more fundamental to the mission of the Committee of Seventy than protecting our voters and the integrity of the voting process,” said David Thornburgh, President and CEO. “Funding and supporting our elections in a time of uncertainty and crisis should never be a partisan issue, but an imperative to ensure the health of our local democracy.”
Last month, the Committee of Seventy launched WeVote, a statewide campaign to prepare and support organizations and businesses, civic leaders, and elected officials across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to promote a culture of voting in their communities, adopt the Five Habits of Effective Citizens - and specifically, champion statewide vote-by-mail. We are doing our part to inform and activate voters, and now we need Congress to provide the resources so every voter can trust the process and be confident that their vote counts.
To learn more about WeVote, visit wevote.seventy.org.
To see the full report on election security and funding by Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, Pitt Cyber, and the R Street Institute, go to https://www.cyber.pitt.edu/research-publications.
The purpose of the Committee of Seventy’s WeVote awareness campaign is to inspire citizens in Pennsylvania to vote, to inform them on how to vote safely and effectively, and to engage them with nonpartisan information and resources about the choices they’ll make in the upcoming elections. Learn more: wevote.seventy.org
ABOUT Committee of Seventy
The Committee of Seventy is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic leadership organization that advances representative, ethical and effective government in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania through citizen engagement and public policy advocacy.