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Pennsylvania governor fingered for routing private election grants to Democrat areas

Report concludes Wolf administration helped only Democratic counties secure $21 million in private grants from Mark Zuckerberg-funded nonprofit ahead of the 2020 election.

Published: October 29, 2021 6:32pm

Updated: October 30, 2021 11:40pm

(The Center Square) -

Legislative Republicans excoriated Gov. Tom Wolf for "playing favorites" after a report concluded his administration helped only Democratic counties secure $21 million in private grants ahead of the 2020 election.

Broad + Liberty reported the Pennsylvania Department of State and various left-wing groups worked together to funnel private grant funding to Democratic-leaning counties without offering the same assistance to Republican-leaning counties.

"This latest report indicates the administration and the Department of State played favorites when they connected certain counties to large sums of grant funding while ignoring other counties," Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) said. "Not only did this create unequal access to voters, but it also essentially disenfranchised voters in counties that did not receive equal funding."

About half of the money — procured through the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) — went to Philadelphia County, Grove said, representing about $10 spent per voter there. Other counties received around $1 per voter, he said.

The Center Square previously reported 13 counties across Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia received the private grants last year after challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic forced local officials to burn through their annual budgets long before the Nov. 3 election.

In an interview with APM Reports, Chester County's acting Director of Voting Services Bill Turner described the $2.5 million grant his office received as "a lifesaver" that he used to fund 14 drop boxes, body cameras and extra poll workers.

"Honestly, I don't know what we would have done without it," Turner said.

CTCL donated $350 million to more than 2,500 jurisdictions across the country for election administration after the federal government set aside $400 million for the cause — far short of the $4 billion some analysts said was necessary.

The organization said any election department could apply, and grants ranged from $5,000 to $19 million.

According to the Broad + Liberty report, however, an invitation to apply for funding was sent to all counties Sept 1 after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $250 million — nearly a month and a half after Democrat-leaning counties were invited, the report found.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) criticized the state's role in the grant process and said it raises "even more questions" about the "blatant political bias" in the election.

"Many lawmakers have questioned why private election grants were awarded predominantly to counties that voted for Democrats, even after accounting for population density," he said. "Now we have emails showing the Department of State, the Governor's Office and various left-wing groups were working together to ensure private grant money was funneled to areas where Democrats were expected to vote in droves."

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