September 24, 2021
PA Senate elections bill: A good first step

Senate State Government Committee chairs David Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Sharif Street (D-Phila) formally introduced an election reform bill (SB 878) that would allow for three days of pre-canvassing mail-in ballots, would move the mail-in ballot application deadline from one week before election day to two (except that ballots could still be requested in person up to one week prior), supports the training of beleaguered poll workers, and attempts to clarify and standardize election procedures for county officials. The proposal is based on the findings of the Senate Special Committee for Election Integrity and Reform, and to date, is the most promising legislation that attempts to find common ground across the aisle. But more work would be needed to ensure counties, the Department of State and voter advocates are comfortable with the provisions. Most important: counties need far more than three days to process mail-in ballots. 
  • And in the House: House State Government Committee chair Seth Grove (R-York) has reintroduced the GOP’s voting measure (now HB 1800), an updated version of the election bill Governor Wolf vetoed earlier this year.
Will the PPA ban political activity for employees?

As the board of directors of Philadelphia’s patronage-heavy Parking Authority unanimously appointed attorney Beth Grossman as its new chair this week, it also made news with the introduction of a long-sought reform: Board member (and City Commissioner) Al Schmidt proposed a rule change that would bar the PPA’s roughly 1,000 workers from engaging in various forms of direct political activity while employed by the agency. According to The Inquirer, the PPA “continues to have issues with political patronage.” We applaud the move because it would install a stronger barrier between a public agency and our local politics. All public employees must be guaranteed the right to express their political opinions, but simultaneously holding party positions, conducting political fundraising, or managing partisan campaigns can erode public trust and, at worst, create a risk of corruption. Now the board needs to approve it.
  • Why so many Republicans? Although registered Ds outnumber registered Rs by about seven to one in Philly, five of the PPA’s six Board members are Republicans (Housing Authority chair Lynette Brown-Sow is the only D). The reason: a 2001 move by longtime Northeast Philly GOP State Rep. John Perzel to turn the PPA into a state-run agency. Four of the six members are appointed by the General Assembly.
Caught our eye
City Hall Roll Call is a summary of City Council’s weekly Stated Meeting by Lauren Vidas, an election lawyer and government relations specialist. Good government requires transparency, which is why C70 proudly sponsors this important work! 
On our radar
Not so fast… The Legislative Reapportionment Commission, the legislative panel charged with redrawing the General Assembly’s district lines, adjusted its 3-2 decision to count state-prison inmates where they’re from instead of where they’re being held to include only those whose sentences are scheduled to end before the next Census, in 2030. That will affect some ~3,000 of PA’s 37,000 state-prison inmates. The original decision also excluded ~4,000 people serving life sentences from being reallocated to their previous address.
Election “audit” counterpunches: Gov. Wolf and PA Senate Democrats have sued their Republican colleagues to quash the subpoenas they issued for their “forensic audit” for several reasons, including that it’s up to courts, not the legislature, to probe election disputes, that the probe constitutes an invasion of privacy and that it’s based on the “disproven narrative” that the election was fraudulent.
Speaking of voter privacy: David Becker, who heads the Center for Election Innovation and Research, says that Republicans are "playing Russian roulette with the personal information of every registered PA voter.” And the Pittsburgh Review-Tribune editorial board says that the “intrusive subpoenas betray bedrock values.”
Lessons learned from 2020: The U.S. election system remains “robust and resilient,” according to a new report released this week by MIT’s Election Data & Science Lab and the American Enterprise Institute.
Looking forward to Nov. 2: Here’s a PA Capital-Star recap of Monday’s forum featuring the eight candidates for the three state appellate courts. Voter registration deadline is Mon., Oct. 18. Check or update your registration at:
March forward in ‘24? A bill that would move PA’s 2024 presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday in March passed the Senate State Government Committee unanimously this week.
League of Women Voters Antiracism Series: PA School-Funding Lawsuit 
Mon., Sept. 27, 6-8 pm

The LWVPA Equity Initiative is partnering with LWV Philadelphia for a program on equitable school funding. What should you know about the state’s longstanding school funding lawsuit, and what action steps must be taken to ensure every PA K-12 student has resources to succeed, regardless of community demographics, wealth, or geography? Featured Panelists: Angelique Hinton, executive director of PA Youth Vote and president of Norristown NAACP; and Simir Hampton, Love Warrior and a PA Youth Vote volunteer. RSVP.
Beitler Distinguished Lecture: Conspiracy Theory and Political Culture, Past and Present
Tues., Oct. 19, 5:30 pm

Join Adrienne LaFrance, executive editor of The Atlantic, and Atlantic contributor James McAuley, the author of The House of Fragile Things, a history of Dreyfus-era France, for a conversation around the long history of conspiracy theory and its role in political culture, then and now. The discussion will be moderated by Sophia Rosenfeld, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. Presenting the event is the Penn’s Lorraine Beitler Distinguished Lecture Series. RSVP.
Get Involved
City Council Redistricting Workshops

Virtual, small-group workshops are being offered through October 4 that aim to provide useful background on the Council redistricting process, insights on the impact of the 2020 Census, and how individuals and organizations can get involved. These sessions are a great opportunity to quickly get up to speed on the issue. The updated schedule is here:
Sign the Citizens’ Pledge to Fight Big Money in Elections

American Promise members in PA are launching a bipartisan campaign to make us the 23rd state to call for a constitutional amendment to stop big-money corruption. It would “reaffirm the power of citizens through their government to regulate the raising and spending of money in elections.” Learn more and sign the pledge.
For the first time in our 117-year history, Seventy has created a membership program to broaden, diversify and expand our community of local democracy-builders. Your membership also provides unique opportunities to meet civic leaders and policy experts, gain inside knowledge of the reform process, and connect with people who are passionate about our city and commonwealth.
Become a member today!