Sen. Dush Requests Department of State Have Counties Discontinue Ballot Drop Box Use

HARRISBURG – Today Sen. Cris Dush (R-25), chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman requesting the Department of State instruct all counties to immediately discontinue the use of ballot drop boxes.

“The reason is simple: the chain of custody for any ballot submitted in such fashion is unverifiable if such actions are not taken and thus any election which does not take those steps cannot qualify to be certified,” said Dush, whose committee continues to receive evidence showing ballot drop boxes eliminate the chain of custody before the qualified elector can be verified.

“I can say this with certainty due to the number of people who have sworn affidavits which indicate they never applied for, nor received, nor utilized a mail-in ballot when one had been recorded for them,” Dush said. “It is also evident from the video and counting evidence which shows clearly that more ballots had been placed into ballot boxes than there were people who had brought them to the ballot drop boxes.”

Since the introduction of drop boxes in 2020, there have been numerous examples from around the state proving they breed misuse:

  • Video evidence from Lehigh County shows ballot stuffing in the 2021 General Election;
  • Video evidence from Lackawanna County of a man allegedly stuffing multiple ballots into a drop box during the 2021 Primary Election;
  • Video evidence from Montgomery County shows ballot stuffing in the 2021 General Election;
  • Testimony from a Luzerne County Judge of Elections indicates an individual admitting to repeatedly stuffing a drop box, not realizing it was even illegal; and

On May 5, Acting Sec. Chapman sent a letter requesting Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin refrain from putting detectives or other law enforcement near ballot drop boxes to deter illegal multi-ballot drops. District Attorney Martin, who provided to the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee information showing hundreds of people dropping off multiple election ballots, has indicated he is not changing his plan.

“Mail-in ballot drop boxes have never been authorized by the legislature and the reason for that is becoming more blatantly obvious as more video and hand counting of ‘ballots’ dropped at these locations are examined,” said Dush.

Last month, the Senate approved legislation that would prevent the future use of unsecured ballot drop boxes.

Senate Bill 1200, sponsored by Dush, would require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania. 

Eliminating unsecured ballot drop boxes will not negatively impact voter access. There are more than 10,000 publicly available locations across the Commonwealth that voters can use to return their ballots.

 

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

Jefferson County’s Punxsutawney, Sykesville Boroughs Receive Multimodal Funding for Street Improvements

HARRISBURG – Street improvements for two Jefferson County communities will receive, combined, more than $423,000 in funding through Pennsylvania’s Multimodal Transportation Fund, according to Sen. Cris Dush (R-25) and Rep. Brian Smith (R-66).

“Upgrading local infrastructure will contribute to safer streets for motorists and pedestrians, as well as keep traffic and commerce flowing, helping residents and area businesses,” said Dush.

“I was pleased to offer letters of support to help move these critical transportation improvement projects forward,” Smith said. “These much-needed upgrades will play a major role in making travel safer throughout Jefferson County, not only for drivers, but also for pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists, employers, and especially our students, who all share the benefits of a properly maintained local transportation infrastructure.”

The Borough of Punxsutawney will receive $285,901 for design and construction of a radius widening project to eliminate a 90-degree turn at the intersection of Front and Union Streets, while the Borough of Sykesville will receive $137,188 to resurface borough streets – including South Park Street, Memorial Street, Station Street, Paradise Road and Willow Alley – to improve safety and accessibility for local commercial business operations, school buses and residential traffic.

The Multimodal Transportation Fund provides grants to encourage economic development and ensure that a safe and reliable system of transportation is available to the residents of the commonwealth. Funds may be used for the development, rehabilitation and enhancement of transportation assets to existing communities, streetscape, lighting, sidewalk enhancement, pedestrian safety, connectivity of transportation assets and transit-oriented development.

 

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

Communities in Clearfield, Clinton and Tioga Counties Receive Transportation Alternatives Project Funding

HARRISBURG – Funding for three alternative transportation projects that will benefit communities in Clearfield, Clinton and Tioga counties has been approved, according Sen. Cris Dush (R-25).

A total of $54.1 million in federal funding was approved through the Transportation Alternatives (TA) Set-Aside program with the following awards announced for 25th Senatorial District projects:

  • $1 million for Sandy Township, Clearfield County, to install sidewalks along Maple Avenue and Shaffer Road, a pedestrian crosswalk on Maple Avenue and traffic signal and pedestrian upgrades at the Maple Avenue and Shaffer Road intersection.
  • $1 million for the Clinton County Planning Office to continue the Bald Eagle Valley Trail by constructing a ramp to carry the trail off the former railroad bridge over the Susquehanna River, building 3,200 feet of new trail surface on an abandoned Pine Creek Township road, installing sharrows (shared lane markings used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles) and adding share-the-road signage on approximately three miles of River Road.
  • $470,000 for Richmond Township, Tioga County, to add pedestrian accommodations along south Main Street.

“When you think about transportation, the mind immediately focuses on roads and bridges, but there’s much more to transportation than that, and these projects will help improve the lives of 25th Senatorial District residents,” said Dush.

The TA Set-Aside program provides funding for projects and activities defined as transportation alternatives, including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, infrastructure projects for improving non-driver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility, community improvement activities, and environmental mitigation, trails that serve a transportation purpose, and safe routes to school projects.

 

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

City of Lock Haven Receives $5 million in PENNVEST Funding for Dam Modifications

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) today awarded a $5 million loan to the City of Lock Haven, in Clinton County, to make modifications to the Warren Ohl Dam, according to Sen. Cris Dush (R-25).

“The Warren Ohl Dam needs to be able to hold more water than it currently can in case of excessive rain,” said Sen. Dush. “The funding will ensure these upgrades can be made.”

The project will build a dam crest parapet wall, raise spillway walls, replace the spillway terminal structure, replace the intake bridge, construct a lower reservoir access road and build a structure above the intake tower to house the valve operators. Additionally, the existing spillway chute will be rehabilitated, with repairs made to the spillway slab and spillway walls to be replaced where applicable. Work will also be done to rehab the intake tower by adding new gate valves and making concrete repairs where needed.

PENNVEST is not supported by the state’s General Fund budget, which covers the daily operations and services of the Commonwealth. Financing is provided through the use of federal funding and prior bond issues by the state as well as proceeds from the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee legislation, Act 13 of 2012.

 

CONTACT:    Zack Ankeny

Senate Votes to Ban Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes and Private Funding of Election Operations

HARRISBURG – In a strong step forward to safeguard the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections, the Senate approved two bills today that would prevent the future use of unsecured ballot drop boxes and ban private money to fund election operations.

Senate Bill 1200 – sponsored by Senators Cris Dush (R-Jefferson), Ryan P. Aument (R-Lancaster), Jake Corman (R-Centre) and Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) – would require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania. 

Drop boxes were permitted by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in 2020, despite the fact that they were never authorized or intended by the General Assembly through the legislative process. Since that time, numerous examples of drop boxes being misused have been discovered throughout the state, including:

    • Video evidence from Lehigh County showing ballot harvesting in the 2021 General Election.
    • Video evidence from Lackawanna County showing a man allegedly harvesting multiple ballots into a drop box during the 2021 Primary Election.
    • Video evidence from Montgomery County showing ballot harvesting in the 2021 General Election.
    • Memorandum from Lehigh County explaining how detectives reviewed video from four different drop boxes in the county and determined there were overvotes at each of the locations.
    • Testimony from a Luzerne County Judge of Elections indicating an individual admitting to repeatedly harvesting ballots at a drop box, not realizing it was even illegal.

“Drop boxes are the least secure way to vote in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – period,” said Dush. “Because drop boxes were written into law by the courts, the Senate is now taking steps to mitigate the negative effects of that action and restore the integrity of our elections.”

With many other, more secure ways available for Pennsylvanians to vote, the elimination of these unsecured ballot drop boxes will not negatively impact voter access. There are over 10,000 publicly available locations across the Commonwealth that voters can use to return their ballots, the Senators said.

“Eliminating drop boxes that evidence shows are breeding grounds for suspicious activity will go a long way toward restoring the public’s confidence in our elections and results,” said Aument. “Our bill will require all ballots be returned to a single central location in each county to streamline the process, prevent tampering, and preserve a strict chain of custody.”

“We have a Constitutional duty to safeguard our election process so every voter knows the results are fair and accurate. When voters don’t believe the process is impartial, then the entire system breaks down,” Senate President Pro Tempore Corman said. “Getting private money out of our elections and eliminating the least secure method of voting should give all voters more faith in our election system.”

“The Pennsylvania Senate took two significant steps this week towards helping to restore election integrity in our Commonwealth’s voting system by eliminating the use of drop boxes and preventing third party funding from influencing elections in Pennsylvania. While other states may use drop boxes, Pennsylvania’s drop boxes have no statutory parameters as they were established by our Commonwealth’s Supreme Court without legislative approval,” said Senate Majority Leader Ward. “It was never the intent of the legislature to establish rogue voting facilities on public street corners with pop-up tents, or in cars, trucks, and vans and without Board of Elections oversight while funded by third parties. The passage of these bills in the House and signature from the governor making them law is a start towards restoring faith in free and fair elections in Pennsylvania.”

Senate Bill 982 – sponsored by Senators Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) – would ban any state employee or county from accepting money from outside groups to pay for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania. The bill was approved by a 37-12 margin with bipartisan support.

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. Correspondence between CTCL officials, the Wolf Administration and county officials demonstrates that funding was intentionally directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.

Democrat-leaning counties were selectively invited to apply for the grants before Republican-leaning counties were even made aware of the funding. Philadelphia and its surrounding counties received more than $18 million from CTCL in the 2020 Election, while other counties received significantly less.

For example, Philadelphia received $8.83 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020.  On the other side of the state, Venango County, with a Republican voter registration advantage, received only $.64 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020.

“Our legislation offers a direct, straight-forward clarification to the Pennsylvania Election Code,” Baker said.  “Senate Bill 982 simply states what all of us understood to be fact – government should pay for elections.  Voters, taxpayers and citizens alike deserve the most fair and equitable election system.  It should be uniform from one county to the next regardless of size, demographics, or wealth.”

“After witnessing an incredible investment from a group whose donors are not 100% known in a recent election, we must reaffirm that our election system is above reproach,” Phillips-Hill said. “Every voter should have trust in the system, and the administration of our election system should be free of partisan influence from dark money groups.”

Both bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

CONTACT:           Jason Thompson (Corman)

                                Erica Clayton Wright (Ward)

                                Stephanie Applegate (Aument)

                                Kate Flessner (Baker)

                                Jon Hopcraft (Phillips-Hill)

                                Joseph Foust (Dush)

Senate Republicans Announce Bill to Eliminate Election Drop Boxes Citing Evidence of Misuse

Lack of security, transparency, and consistency with drop boxes prove they are a threat to election integrity

(HARRISBURG) – Senate Republicans announced they will soon introduce a proposal sponsored by Senators Cris Dush (R-25), Ryan Aument (R-36), Jake Corman (R-34), and Kim Ward (R-39) that will require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania. The sponsors say the proposal, Senate Bill 1200, is part of continuing efforts to increase the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election system.

Drop boxes were first used in Pennsylvania when they were written into law by the courts, without authorization from the Legislature, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important for the public to understand that drop boxes were created by the courts out of thin air through an undemocratic and uncollaborative process that was entirely independent of the Legislature,” said Corman. “This key reform is a good first step to help restore the public’s faith in the sanctity of our voting system so Pennsylvanians can once again have an election system they believe in.”

“What the courts claimed was meant to be a temporary solution during the pandemic is now a permanent issue wrought with consequences, including a lack of proper guidelines or security measures to govern the use of these drop boxes,” said Aument.

Since the introduction of drop boxes in 2020, there have been numerous examples from around the state proving they breed misuse:

  • Video evidence from Lehigh County shows ballot stuffing in the 2021 General Election,
  • Video evidence from Lackawanna County of a man allegedly stuffing multiple ballots into a drop box during the 2021 Primary Election,
  • Video evidence from Montgomery County shows ballot stuffing in the 2021 General Election,
  • Testimony from a Luzerne County Judge of Elections indicates an individual admitting to repeatedly stuffing a drop box, not realizing it was even illegal, and
  • Cell phone geolocation data shows suspicious activity regarding drop boxes in Philadelphia, including some devices visiting drop box locations more than 100 times.

Ballot stuffing – the act of depositing anyone’s ballot that isn’t your own into a drop box without written permission – is a crime punishable by a second-degree misdemeanor, and conviction can carry a two-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine under current law.

“Intentional or unintentional, misusing these drop boxes is a crime – period,” said Aument. “Restoring security, transparency, and consistency in our election process will help Pennsylvanians regain trust in results and in the system.”

The bill sponsors are confident the measure won’t negatively impact voter access, as there are plenty of secure ways for Pennsylvanians to cast their vote:

  • In person on Election Day,
  • Provisional ballot on Election Day,
  • Absentee ballot returned via personal mailbox,
  • Absentee ballot returned via USPS collection box,
  • Absentee ballot returned in person at the County Election Office,
  • Absentee ballot returned in person at a USPS office,
  • Absentee ballot returned in person by a designee with written consent if the voter is disabled, or in certain emergency situations, and unable to return it on their own,
  • Mail-in ballot returned via personal mailbox,
  • Mail-in ballot returned via USPS collection box,
  • Mail-in ballot returned in person at the County Election Office,
  • Mail-in ballot returned in person at a USPS office, and
  • Mail-in ballot returned in person by a designee with written consent if the voter is disabled and unable to return it on their own.

“All these methods are more secure than drop boxes,” said Dush. “Eliminating drop boxes will bring us closer to securing our elections while we pursue other necessary reforms.”

 

CONTACT:  Erica Clayton Wright (Senator Kim Ward)

                        Jason Thompson (Senator Corman)

 

Meeting to consider SB 1058 and HB 1184

Senate Local Government Committee

Monday, April 4, 2022 | 12 p.m.

East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A


Agenda

Meeting to consider SB 1058 and HB 1184

Schedule

Call to Order

  • SB 1058 (Pittman) – Amends the Second Class Township Code regarding compensation of auditors
  • HB 1184 (Moul) – Amends Title 8 to make various changes to the Borough Code
    • Amendment A03847 (Dush) – Technical correction for situation in which a disinterested member could not be appointed to Borough Advisory Committee or commission for judicial adjustment

Recess to the Call of the Chair