Zuckerberg’s money won’t be in next round of election aid | Colorado News
By NICHOLAS RICCARDI, Associated Press
DENVER (AP) — The nonprofit that distributed most of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $350 million in donations to election offices in 2020 said Monday it would not make similar donations this year after the backlash from conservatives suspecting the contributions swung the outcome of the presidential race against Joe Biden.
Instead, the Center for Technology and Civic Life is launching a different program. Dubbed the American Alliance for Election Excellence, the five-year, $80 million effort aims to create a network for the thousands of local election officials across the country, who can seek help improving their technology and processes. .
“Unfortunately, years of underinvestment mean that many local election services often have limited capacity and training. The American Alliance for Election Excellence brings together world-class partners so that local election officials no longer have to go it alone,” said Tiana Epps-Johnson, Executive Director of CTCL, who announced the new program during of the TED2022 conference.
The 2020 effort by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, amid the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled anger and distrust among conservatives over the outcome of the presidential election. At least eight GOP-controlled states passed laws last year banning private donations to election offices in response to Zuckerberg’s donations. Suspicion that the contributions – commonly referred to as “Zuckerbucks” by conservatives – helped Biden, a Democrat, has become a fixture among those who believe former President Donald Trump‘s campaign lies.
Several Republican election officials said the program was vital and non-partisan and dismissed criticism of it as conspiracy theories.
A spokesperson for Zuckerberg and Chan confirmed that the couple are not funding election offices this year.
“As Mark and Priscilla have made clear previously, their donation of election infrastructure to help ensure Americans can vote at the height of the pandemic was a unique donation given the unprecedented nature of the crisis,” said Ben LaBolt. “They have no intention of repeating this gift.”
Epps-Johnson said the group saw in 2020 how woefully underfunded many local election offices were. In the United States, elections are organized at the local level, sometimes by a small team of city or county workers and volunteers. A New England office, Epps-Johnson said, used its 2020 grant to replace centennial election tabulation equipment, and many struggled to maintain usable websites that could provide information to voters. on mobile devices.
The network will work with technology experts from Stanford University and elsewhere, Epps-Johnson said. Local election offices will be able to ask for help, but things will work differently than two years ago.
In 2020, polling stations were scrambling to switch to mail-in voting as the pandemic made traditional polling stations more difficult to maintain. Negotiations over additional funds for election offices have collapsed amid partisan acrimony in Washington. In late August of that year, Zuckerberg announced his donations, and CTCL quickly distributed the funds to 2,500 election offices for a wide range of expenses, including new counting equipment, vans to transport voting machines, and supplies. public relations campaigns announcing new ways to vote. ballot papers.
Conservatives were immediately skeptical. Many have long been suspicious of Zuckerberg, believing he is using his social media platform to help Democrats. CTCL is a nonpartisan group respected by election administrators of both parties, but its founders have roots in liberal politics. And while the grants went to conservative and liberal regions, Democratic-leaning counties received a disproportionate share of the money in battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania.
CTCL has spent much of the time since the 2020 contests pushing for increased government funding for electoral offices, saying it would be better than another round of private donations. The nonprofit was encouraged by Biden’s request for $10 billion in campaign funding in the federal budget he released last month.
Still, the movement fueled by Trump’s false allegations of widespread voter fraud has latched onto 2020 donations as one of its many grievances about the way the election went. For example, during the Colorado GOP Assembly on Saturday, candidate after candidate referred to Zuckerberg and “Zuckerbucks” as they claimed the election was stolen from Republicans.
“Mark Zuckerberg and his phantom forces should never be in charge of our elections,” said Tina Peters, a county clerk indicted for her role in illegally downloading voting software last year that was provided to Trump supporters. She made the comments to the crowd in Colorado Springs as she headed to the party’s primary ballot for the state’s top nominating office, secretary of state.
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