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August 19, 2022

Open primaries get a hearing

A bill to open the state’s closed primaries to the million-plus independent voters received its first House committee hearing Tuesday at Villanova University. The three-hour session was thoughtful and detailed, with witnesses arguing that opening primaries would limit extremism and increase turnout. Open Primaries president John Opdyke testified that independents are the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, while Ballot PA chair and C70 senior adviser David Thornburgh told legislators that refusing to allow them to participate in elections their taxes pay for is simply unfair. “The right to vote,” Thornburgh said, “is more important than party preferences.”

Philly’s next mayor: Game on (and turnover expected in Council)

Probable mayoral candidate Allan Domb resigned his City Council seat Monday, with the expectation of an official declaration to come later. If he announces, Domb could be joined in the mayor’s race by as many as six other members. With this much turnover, the 17-seat Council will be a different place, with different committee chairs and power centers, in the near future. Council president Darrell Clarke hasn’t said when he’ll call a special election to fill Domb’s seat, and due to mail-in ballot deadlines, there’s not much time to do so by November 8.

  • About resign to run: Philadelphia’s 1951 Home Rule Charter requires that municipal elected officials resign their posts before running for “any public office.” This affects the Council members eyeing a mayoral run, as well as Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, if she jumps in. Forgoing a salary for well over a year isn’t a simple choice for most people, including elected officials, and the vacancies created mean voters go without representation for a time. Is this fair or sensible public policy? We don't think so.

Board of Ethics moves to crack down on “redboxing”

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics wants to tighten the city’s campaign-finance regulations by cracking down on “redboxing,” the practice by candidates of indirectly communicating to friendly super PACs. One not-so-subtle technique is to post on a campaign webpage talking points and target audiences, enclosed in a red box and under a headline such as “voters need to know.” The New York Times found a recent example in Senate candidate Conor Lamb’s primary campaign against eventual winner John Fetterman. Ethics advocates argue this activity circumvents the firewall against coordination that is supposed to exist between candidates and super PACs.

The Board’s proposal

A redboxing ban could be in place in time for the 2023 mayoral and City Council elections, but local election lawyers argue the Board’s proposed wording could stifle “ordinary campaign speech.” Aaron McKean from the Campaign Legal Center testified that further specificity in the circumstances of potential violations would address such concerns.

Caught Our Eye

Partisanship in America: A plague on both houses—and an opening for independents. Republicans and Democrats increasingly describe each other as being closed-minded, dishonest, unintelligent and generally immoral, according to Pew research. Independents might be able to bridge the gap. Research published in Governing finds that when partisans include independents in their networks, they’re less likely to live in alternative-media realities and less likely to take extreme positions.

On Our Radar

Mastriano’s plan for elections: A promise to disrupt. The digital magazine Bolts catalogs GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s plans to shake up the way the PA Department of State oversees elections—implementing voter ID, rolling back mail-in voting, and even forcing all voters to re-register. C70 CEO Al Schmidt tells Bolts that “the most important thing that the Department of State could do is to strengthen confidence in voting and in our participatory democracy and not discourage people, or confuse them.”

County Commissioners back mail-in voting: The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania decisively rejected (112-68) a resolution proposed by two Lancaster County Commissioners to support legislative efforts to overturn the 2019 law that expanded mail-in voting in PA.

Results are in (again) from Butler County: An audit in the western county spurred by activists skeptical of the 2020 presidential election outcome found no inaccuracies in the ballots reviewed. But it took election workers 170 hours to prove it. 

“Huge” raises for PA legislators: Spotlight PA reports that the inflation-driven cost-of-living increase members of the General Assembly will receive under a 1995 law will raise base pay above $100,000 in 2023. Legislators may decline the raises, the article notes. But few do.

Get Involved

Apply for a Buchholz Fellowship

Our fifth cohort of Buchholz Fellows since 2017 is concluding its year as members of C70’s Board of Directors. Now we’re seeking a sixth cohort. Buchholz Fellows are emerging young leaders (recommended age is 25-35) working in the private or nonprofit sector who embody the qualities that longtime Seventy stalwart Carl Buchholz exhibited in his life and work: personal and professional integrity, a strong work ethic, collaborative spirit, and a passion for improving his community. Applications are open until Friday, Aug. 26. Apply.

Become a Poll Worker

If you're thinking of becoming an essential worker for democracy, join us for "So you want to be a poll worker?" — an introductory poll worker training session available to election workers across the Commonwealth. Find the date that works best for your schedule. And the training opportunities don't stop there. Learn more about upcoming poll worker Q&A's, training sessions and more!


Voter Registration and Poll Worker Recruitment

The Philadelphia NAACP is partnering with Black Voters Matter and Millennials in Action to hosting register voters and recruit poll workers at events now through September:

Aug 20, 12-3pm: Philadelphia Branch NAACP (4458-B Germantown Ave)

Aug 6, 1-4pm: Jacobs Northwest (7165 Germantown Ave)

Aug 27, 1-4pm: Broad & Olney Transportation Center

Sept 26, 1-4pm: Germantown & Chelten

Securing Your Vote: Business Briefing on PA Election Operations with Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman

Wed., Sept. 7, 10 am | Zoom

Seventy joins Business for America to present a briefing by Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman on the Department of State’s efforts to prepare for the November general election and how we can maximize the engagement of employees, customers and community members for it. The Pennsylvania business community plays an essential role by ensuring that accurate election information is distributed to its stakeholders so we all can have confidence that our elections are secure, accessible and efficient. Register.

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