The Bark - Special Democracy Edition

Just two weeks shy of the November 3 election, we bring you this special Democracy edition of The Bark. 

The Bark was started earlier this year when our state went into lockdown in an attempt to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this serious disruption, PennFuture’s role as a watchdog maintaining vigilance over our state’s air, water, climate and clean energy resources didn’t miss a beat, mostly because polluters keep polluting, anti-environmental forces in and on our state legislature kept up a steady drumbeat calling for less environmental regulation, and in perhaps the most audacious move of all, conspired to fleece taxpayers in the midst of a recession by lining the pockets of petrochemical and frackers with public subsidies.  

The Bark has alerted you, our members, advocates, supporters and readers to these happenings and we will continue to illuminate this chicanery, and to ask for your help as we fight the good fight. 

The subject today, dear readers, is democracy, and the very real potential for systemic and insidious attacks on it as we move into the most critical time in this election season.

Through the work of PennFuture’s Democracy for All program, and our partner organization Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, we have been proactive in ensuring every Pennsylvanian who is eligible to vote can register to vote, and that everyone who is registered to vote has made a plan to vote, and has either cast or will cast a vote by mail or absentee ballot, or will soon be voting safely in person on November 3.  

When Election Day arrives, we want to know we have done everything we can for voters in Pennsylvania to make their voices heard, and hopefully with our state’s environment and global climate in mind.    

As an organization that now embraces civic engagement as a strategy to fulfill our mission, it is now necessary for PennFuture to engage in democracy advocacy both leading up to the election, and if necessary post-election. We do this work to support our theory of change that citizens must have unfettered access to a vibrant democracy where their concerns around clean air, water, energy, climate and environmental justice will be fairly addressed.

As such, PennFuture, represented by the Brennan Center for Justice, successfully intervened in opposition to a lawsuit recently brought by the Republican National Committee, and the Trump Reelection Campaign. The litigation raised constitutional claims challenging, among other things, Pennsylvania’s use of mail-in ballots and drop boxes.

The case was dismissed by the federal court on October 10, 2020. The judge found, among other things, that the evidence of claimed “voter fraud” was too “scant” and “speculative” to establish any injury of vote dilution. The judge also examined the merits of the case and issued a final judgment against Plaintiffs. You can read the Opinion here.  

Our civic engagement advocacy hasn’t ended with the courts. Just several weeks ago, the General Assembly began tinkering with establishing a new committee in the state House of Representatives to investigate the election. Called HR 1032, this resolution is an attack on the integrity of our election process and an overreach of power. PennFuture was one of many organizations to fight back strongly against this resolution.

While it is currently backburnered from consideration, we are still tracking it for a possible resurrection to come before the election, and keeping our ear to the ground for post-election attempts by the legislature to inappropriately insert itself into the election outcomes. 

Given the possibility for disruption before or after the election, PennFuture will be weighing its options for engagement, should it become obvious that our advocacy is needed. We may find our organization heading back to the courts, or engaging with the state legislature and executive branch if they become involved in atypical post-election activity, and keeping our many stakeholders, including individuals like you, informed. And, perhaps once again, we will be asking for your help in the advocacy we may pursue.  

PennFuture approaches November 3 with our eyes wide open to the grimmer realities we face as a state if deep divisions remain, but with the fervent hope that others share our urgency and will act to restore our damaged environment and climate, because there is a different, bold and promising path forward that can build a strong economic recovery for everyone and healthful communities everywhere.  

As we prepare for the uncertainties of the coming weeks and perhaps longer, PennFuture will stand on guard for as long as necessary against those that threaten our environment and democracy.


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