We are learning new information on the taxpayer costs for last year’s elections, and that it wasn’t just the election expenses but also the millions of dollars spent in the resulting court suits.
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing appeals for the last of election lawsuits.
Dozens of them were filed across the country, some including Pennsylvania, and in Centre County.
So, what were the costs, the taxpayer bills for the legal counsel that was hired to handle those suits?
In Centre county we filed a right to know request for the county government’s added legal billing specifically for election lawsuits.
We received more than 110 documents for bills that began last year on the Fourth of July and continued until New Year’s Eve.
But what the county actually paid was unknown, for several reasons, despite asking several county officials for even a ball park figure.
There are some bills specifically for Centre County other bills are tied into suits where the county was just one of the defendants where there was a group of lawyers.
Plus, attorney-client privilege was cited in not releasing all the information.
Also unknown is how much of Centre County’s legal bills were paid through insurance coverage, or other possible funding sources.
As for the statewide cost for election lawsuits, we do have a specific figure here’s what the acting secretary of state, Veronica Degraffenreid, testified to recently at a state House hearing:
“I believe it was somewhere upwards $3.3 or $3.4 million based on outside counsel or litigation costs.”
The lawsuits didn’t change election results, but will they be a factor in changing future elections?
Pennsylvania legislative leaders are vowing action.
“We want to look at other states, Florida has a very healthy mail program and it works,” says Jake Corman. “Texas has a healthy early voting program and it works, Colorado, a blue state per se, has a healthy signature verification program, so we want to look to other states, you know in 2000, Florida was a disaster and now they’re a gold standard. So, let’s see what they did and find ways to improve our process.”
We’re told though: Don’t expect much in the way of change for the upcoming spring primary election in May.
Along with that $3.3 million cited by the Department of State there were other legal costs.
Legislative leaders filed their own suits in some cases, and we’re told the bill there — taxpayer costs is near $1.8 million.