After Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg poured $350 million into the “nonpartisan” Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to help election administration in cities and counties nationwide during the 2020 election, states like Arizona are pushing back against private overreach in elections.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed HB 2569 into law on Friday, banning election officials at every level from accepting outside funding to administer elections. In signing the bill, Governor Ducey said:
With public confidence in our elections in peril, it’s clear that elections must be pristine and above reproach — and the sole purview of government.
“With public confidence in our elections in peril, it’s clear our elections must be pristine and above reproach — and the sole purview of government,” AZ Governor @dougducey said in signing the bill. https://t.co/mE7ALpBk5h— Lawyers Democracy (@lawyersdf) April 12, 2021
Adding fuel to the contentious fire of the 2020 election was the millions of dollars poured into states by CTCL to influence how these states administered their elections. CTCL, whose founders worked together at the liberal New Organizing Institute, obtained $350 million in “Zuckerbucks” to help cities and counties run safe and secure elections in the form of “Covid-19 Response Grants.”
While CTCL alleges it provided funding to every city and county that applied for its grant, research by the Thomas More Society’s Amistad Project found that CTCL contributions heavily favor Democratic areas, especially in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Of CTCL's 20 largest publicly identified donations (totaling $76.5 million), the Project found that all of them went overwhelmingly Democrat in 2016.
But many states aren’t buying what CTCL is selling. Following Arizona’s footsteps, legislatures in key swing states including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, and Florida have introduced similar legislation to prevent election officials from accepting private funds.
In Arizona, the CTCL’s grants led to what some allege was a disproportionately greater turnout for one political party:
All 15 counties increased their votes for both parties, but not at all equally. And both parties saw their votes increase even more in the nine counties CTCL funded than the six counties it did not. Here especially the results were unequal.
For the Republicans, the funded counties’ votes increased by 46 percent more than the rate at which unfunded counties increased. For Democrats, funded counties’ votes skyrocketed upwards 81 percent more quickly than they rose in unfunded counties.
But the additional votes Democrats received there gave them a margin over their opponents of 129,000 votes, or more than 10 times the Democrats’ state-wide margin of victory.
While CTCL may have played some role in Democrats’ upset in Arizona, Arizona’s elections going forward will be different to bolster election honesty and transparency. According to Governor Ducey:
[T]he mechanics of elections cannot be in question, and therefore all third-party money must be excluded going forward to avoid any possible allegations of wrongdoing.
The less state election administration is influenced by outside groups, the greater honesty, openness, and transparency there can be in elections. RNLA applauds Arizona Governor Doug Ducey for signing HB 2569 and looks forward to other states enacting similar legislation in the near future.