Private funding was key to some 2020 elections. Republicans banned it in nearly a dozen states.
She ran radio and newspaper ads in English and Navajo, promoting voting options. She hired 19 additional temporary workers to help Navajo Nation residents register to vote and vote, up from three she normally employs in a typical election year. And she set up pop-up spots at shopping counters and gas stations where residents could cast their ballots.
A grant of $ 614,000 from a then little-known nonprofit, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, aided these efforts.
It paid off: Turnout in the vast county crossed by the Grand Canyon has jumped to nearly 82%, from around 75% four years earlier.
“We were really proud,” Hansen told CNN. “The 2020 election was the most difficult election I have ever participated in, but it was the only election where I had enough money to do what we wanted to do.”
But accepting outside funding is now against the law for Hansen and all other election officials in this battlefield state. Arizona is one of at least 11 Republican-led states that have banned or restricted the use of private funding in future elections, as partisan warfare over the 2020 presidential election spreads to nearly every aspects of electoral administration.
“It really opens the door to some bad things,” he said of private election grants.
Let’s say someone is on the ballot or someone who is close to someone who is on the ballot says, ‘I’m going to put half a million dollars or a million dollars in a specific area, “” said Hargett. “It could really tip the balance towards voter turnout in some areas and put others at a disadvantage.”
Grant administrators deny any political bias in their 2020 actions. In total, grants totaling more than $ 340 million were made to nearly 2,500 election offices in 49 states, including 1,300 to election agencies that served less than 25,000 registered voters, according to officials at the Center for Tech and Civic Life.
“Every election service that applied for the Covid-19 response grant program has received a grant,” said Tiana Epps-Johnson, executive director of the center.
Ben LaBolt, spokesperson for Zuckerberg and Chan, said neither was involved “in the process of determining which jurisdictions have received funds” and noted that the centre’s status as a A non-profit charitable organization prohibited him “from engaging in partisan activities.”
Even so, Republican lawmakers in some key states are pushing forward bills to ensure that the distribution of so-called “Zuck bucks” to local election offices – or the equivalent – never happens again.
However, other legislative efforts have encountered obstacles.
Earlier this summer, Democratic Gov. of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, vetoed a measure approved by the Republican-controlled legislature that would have banned local and state governments from accepting most election grants without permission from the state electoral commission.
The proposal would also have required Wisconsin to distribute the money across the state on a per capita basis.
Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, said her community needed a bigger grant. She said the $ 3.4 million in private dollars helped her pay allowances to election workers last year, buy seven additional tabulators for mail-in ballots and rent two more. The equipment proved crucial, she said, on election night as her office processed a flood of postal ballots.
Wisconsin law prohibits election officials from getting a head start on the processing and counting of postal ballots. This work cannot begin before 7 a.m. on polling day. Without the additional tabulators, she said, “it would have taken days and days to count the postal ballots.”
His office delivered its final results to Milwaukee County at 3:30 a.m. the day after the election, Woodall-Vogg said.
Calls for more public funding
Local officials have “ongoing funding issues” that need to be addressed, including the cost of maintaining election materials, said Susan Gill, retired Florida County Chief Electoral Officer who chairs the National Association of Election Officials.
She said local officials were using private grants “for very good purposes.”
States receive federal election funding pots. Last year, Congress provided $ 400 million in emergency funding to help run an election during the pandemic – far less than the roughly $ 4 billion that liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice election experts have estimated might be needed.
Charles Stewart, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and expert in electoral administration, said the use of private money for a basic government function added an “improper … bake sale for democracy” element to the 2020 election .
But he said some states appear to be rushing to cut private funds without also trying to figure out what the level of public funding is adequate for the elections to run smoothly and appropriate the money to do so.
Back in Arizona, Hansen, a Democrat, said she was disappointed with the ban and will likely have to reduce voter awareness.
“I don’t understand. We can show where we spent the money,” she said. “Frankly, I’d much rather take money from a nonprofit, if they’re willing to give it to us, than put taxpayers’ money in it.”