Georgia State Legislature Considers Bill to Ban Zuckerberg-Funded Private Election Administration Donations

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million …
Alex Wong/Getty Images

State Rep. Joseph Gullett introduced a bill to the Georgia House of Representatives that would ban private funding for the administration of federal, state, and local elections.

As Breitbart News reported, this controversial practice pioneered by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan through $419 million in donations to nonprofits Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) and the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) played a key role in determining the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, particularly in five key battleground states where President Biden narrowly defeated former President Trump: Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

During Georgia’s 2020 election, the CTCL donated more than $24 million to four counties–Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, and DeKalb–where Biden outperformed Hillary Clinton by more than 200,000 votes, and the CEIR donated an estimated $3 million to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office “for the purpose of educating voters about election rules and process.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

State Rep. Joseph Gullett, a Republican from Dallas, said taxpayers and their governments should fund elections administration, not nonprofit groups.

Gullett introduced his legislation after the Center for Tech and Civic Life awarded grants to several county election offices in Georgia. The group is funded by Zuckerberg and philanthropist Priscilla Chan, who is married to Zuckerberg.

The money went toward elections staffing, hazard pay, absentee ballot postage costs, equipment, voter outreach and personal protective gear.

“That money was beneficial to the counties, but one role of government is to run elections, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to allow outside organizations to do it,” said Gullett, a former member of the Paulding County elections board. “We want as little influence on elections as possible.”

The AJC legislative navigator, which gives the bill an 11 percent probability of passing, describes the bill as follows:

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 2 of Title 21 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to primaries and elections generally, so as to prohibit boards of elections, boards of elections and registration, local election superintendents, and county boards of registrars from accepting or expending private funds; to provide that such local elections officials can only accept lawful appropriations of public funds or authorized fees; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

Key components of HB 62, cosponsored by  State Rep. Alan Powell, State Rep. Martin Momtahan, State Rep. Rick Williams, State Rep. Matthew Gambill, and State Rep. Philip Singleton, are as follows:

  • A board of elections or board of elections and registration established pursuant to this subpart shall only be authorized to accept funding from lawful appropriations of public funds from the government of the United States, the State of Georgia, or a Georgia county municipality. No such board of elections or board of elections and registration shall be authorized to accept or expend any grant, gift, or funding from private persons, corporations, organizations, partnerships, registered political parties, or political bodies.
  • A superintendent of a county or municipality shall only be authorized to accept funding from lawful appropriations of public funds from the government of the United States, the State of Georgia, or a Georgia county or municipality. No such superintendent shall be authorized to accept or expend any grant, gift, or funding from private persons, corporations, organizations, partnerships, registered political parties, or political bodies.
  • A county board of registrars shall only be authorized to accept funding from lawful appropriations of public funds from the government of the United States, the State of Georgia, or a Georgia county or municipality. No county board of registrars shall be authorized to accept or expend any grant, gift, or funding from private persons,  corporations, organizations, partnerships, registered political parties, or political bodies.
The bill has been referred to the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.
Should HB 62 become law, CTCL or any other private group will be prohibited by law from providing funding directly to county officials for the administration of any elections–either state or federal–in Georgia after its enactment. It may allow such groups to provide donations to the Georgia state government, but in such cases, expenditures to counties would only be allowed if the earmarked donations were then appropriated by the Georgia State Legislature.

A companion bill has not yet been introduced in the State Senate, though State Sen. Jeff Mullis has introduced seven election-related bills that could possibly be modified during the session to include the provisions included in HB 62.

Among the election-related bills Sen. Mullis introduced are SB 68, which states, “Absentee ballots shall not be delivered to the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk through drop boxes or other receptacles but shall be mailed or delivered personally to a registrar or absentee ballot clerk or other appropriate staff member of the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk” (emphasis added).

During his State of the State address on January 14, Gov. Brian Kemp made little mention of election integrity reform, as the Journal-Constitution reported:

Notably absent from the speech was mention of conservative campaign promises that dominated his first legislative session in office two years ago, when he signed an anti-abortion bill that divided the Statehouse. This year, there was no talk of gun rights expansions, new crackdowns on illegal immigration or other base-pleasing initiatives.

And he also skirted the thorny topic of an overhaul of voting laws, though in an interview this week with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he unequivocally endorsed adding a photo ID requirement for absentee ballots, angering Democrats and voting rights activists who see it as restrictive.

Instead, Kemp seemed to send a message to fellow Republicans with a call to put aside the “ridiculous and harmful conspiracies” and move beyond the painful 2020 election and President Donald Trump’s ceaseless attempts to reverse the outcome.

Gov. Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, and House Speaker David Ralston have not indicated whether they support or oppose State Rep. Gullet’s bill.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.