On Thursday, a former federal election commissioner dubbed Mark Zuckerberg’s $400 million donation to help finance local elections a “well planned attempt” to sway the 2020 election — and suggested that all states prohibit private funding of election offices.
Former Federal Election Commission member Hans von Spakovsky said the billionaire Facebook founder’s donations to two nonprofits that distributed the money to nearly 2,500 counties in 49 states “violated fundamental principles of equal treatment of voters” because it could have resulted in unequal voting opportunities in different parts of the state.
“My reaction is that this was a carefully orchestrated attempt to turn official government election offices into get-out-the-vote operations for one political party and to insert political operatives into election offices in order to influence and manipulate the election outcome,” said von Spakovsky, a Republican who now runs the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative. “All states should prohibit private sponsorship of government election offices, whatever of source,” he continued.
The New York State Republican Party retweeted a link to the paper’s front-page story after the Post published a piece alleging that Zuckerberg essentially “purchased” the 2020 election. “Zuckerberg spent $419 million on ideological non-profits to try to infiltrate a corporate takeover of our elections in order to turn out the Democratic vote in 2020.
All the meantime, Republican voices are drowned out. We MUST rein in big tech NOW, including the NYGOP,” the state GOP tweeted. Former US Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who lost a runoff election to Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock in January, also retweeted The Washington Post’s claim.
“Zuckerberg infiltrated our elections,” she said, “doling out $45 million in Georgia alone to organize a political takeover of our state’s elections operations.” “That’s why we’re asking the [secretary of state] and Fulton County for openness.” Now is the time for accountability.”
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According to the website Ballotpedia, legislation prohibiting outside funding of elections has been submitted in 17 states this year. “With public trust in our elections in jeopardy, it’s apparent our elections must be clean and without reproach — and the only purview of government,” Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said after signing one bill into law in April.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis declared earlier this week that a recent election reform measure he signed had “outlawed Zuckerbucks” in the Sunshine State. However, in June, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, vetoed a Republican plan, claiming that “non-governmental donations” had assisted local election officials “run secure elections under unprecedented circumstances” during the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to a September 2020 press release announcing the plan, the money donated by Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, was intended to supplement government funding and “promote safe and reliable voting” so that “every eligible voter can participate in a safe and timely manner and that their vote is counted.”
The investment likely added around 200,000 votes to Biden’s predicted count in Texas, according to a report by researcher William Doyle based on analysis using a machine-learning algorithm, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Trump from winning the Lone Star State.
Doyle said in his analysis, which was first reported by The Federalist, that preliminary data show a “similar influence” on voting in the important swing states of Wisconsin and Georgia. In Wisconsin, Biden won by fewer than 21,000 votes, while in Georgia, he won by less than 12,000 votes.
The claims made by its detractors “just don’t stack up,” according to a representative for Zuckerberg and Chan. The Center for Tech and Civic Life, which received the majority of the funding, “issued an open call to local election jurisdictions across the country and provided funding to all jurisdictions that applied, regardless of whether they were historically Republican, Democratic, or swing districts,” according to spokesman Ben LaBolt.
“More of the jurisdictions that received funding historically voted Republican than Democratic, so the facts belie the claim,” he stated. Tiana Epps-Johnson, the executive director of the Center For Tech and Civic Life, stated in a statement that the group is non-partisan. “backed by Republicans, Democrats, and nonpartisan officials, which is why all local election offices responsible for administering election activities covered by the CTCL COVID-19 Response grant program were eligible to apply.”
“Every legitimate applicant was awarded a grant. Over half of all grants nationwide went to election departments that serve fewer than 25,000 registered voters,” Epps-Johnson stated. However, Zuckerberg wasn’t the only Californian to donate undefined amounts to 33 counties in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia for the 2020 election administration.
Schwarzenegger announced the proposal in a series of tweets, saying he intended to assist “reopen polling facilities” that had been closed after the Supreme Court declared in 2013 that a part of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional.
The awards were dispersed by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, which did not reply to a request for specific amounts but did issue a statement saying they were awarded on a “nonpartisan” basis. “Participating counties created 1,305 early voting and election day polling stations with the help of the Institute’s funds, and turnout climbed by 6.3 percentage points,” stated academic director Christian Grose.