Georgia Election Integrity Bill ‘Incenses’ Left, but Ban on Private Funding of Election Administration May Contain Loophole

Mark Zuckerberg speaks to Congress
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The Special Committee on Election Integrity of the Georgia House of Representatives held hearings Thursday and Friday on HB 531, which includes a provision designed to ban private funding of election administration of the sort practiced by the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Technology and Civic Life  (CTCL) in that state in 2020.

“No superintendent shall take or accept any funding, grants, or gifts from any source other than from the governing authority of the county or municipality, the State of Georgia, or the federal government,” lines 47 through 49 of HB 531, which is sponsored by Committee Chair State Rep. Barry Fleming, reads, taking some of the language found in HB 62, which was filed by State Rep. Joseph Gullett in January.

On Thursday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “voting rights advocates and Democratic groups are incensed” by the bill’s many other election integrity provisions :

Introduced by Republican Rep. Barry Fleming hours before a hastily-called House hearing, House Bill 531 would restrict absentee voting, limit the use of mobile voting units and ban counties from holding early voting on Sundays, often called “souls to the polls,” which is popular with Black voters

Unlike some other measures pushed by back-bench legislators, this one has juice. Fleming is a rival to House Speaker David Ralston with his own power center, and chairs a special committee set up to handle elections proposals.

Among the other provisions in the measure: a requirement for photo ID for absentee voting, a more limited timeframe for voters to request absentee ballots, and restrictions on where ballot drop boxes could be placed.

Today, Fleming scheduled an hours-long hearing that could stretch through the afternoon to vet the bill. Voting rights advocates and Democratic groups are incensed. (emphasis added)

While Democrats are “incensed” by the election integrity reforms included in the bill, painting them as an infringement on voting rights, one prominent conservative who has led the way in 2020 election integrity litigation says when it comes to making Zuckerberg-style private funding of election administration, HB 531, “while possibly well intended,” if passed as currently written “fails to address these concerns.”

Phill Kline, director of the Amistad Project of The Thomas More Society, told Breitbart News:

The danger of allowing private interests to direct government expenditures played out in the 2020 election as more than $400 million of Mark Zuckerberg monies combined with other Big Tech funding to create a two-tiered election system with election officials in democrat strongholds have millions to target voter turnout, engage in ballot harvesting and to cure ballots while areas of the state with Republican voters did not benefit from such government efforts.

Unfortunately, HB 531, although possibly well intended, fails to address these concerns. Rather it codifies the use of such money by allowing cities and counties to receive, appropriate and spend such funds just as they did in the 2020 election. The state legislature has the responsibility under the United States Constitution and federal law to treat all voters equally.

Therefore, private monies must be prohibited at the local level unless such monies are received and appropriated by the state legislature consistent with the state election plan approved under the Help America Vote Act. Otherwise, the disparate treatment of voters dictated by private interests will continue. House Bill 531 needs to be amended if Georgia wants to prohibit the private takeover of government that occurred during the 2020 election. (emphasis added)

Kline is referring to the language of HB 531, which prohibits “the superintendent” of the administration of elections from receiving private funds. As Kline reads that language, “the superintendent” could receive funding from a county government which, in turn, received that funding from a private donor, such as the Zuckerberg-funded Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL).

As Breitbart News reported:

[The] controversial practice of [private funding of election administration was]  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 language of the earlier bill filed in the Georgia House of Representatives this legislative session, HB 62, more definitively banned the acceptance or expenditure of such private donations:

Key components of HB 62, cosponsored by  [State Rep. Joseph Gullett], 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 Special Committee on Election Integrity of the Georgia House of Representatives is scheduled to hold a third day of hearings on HB 531 on Monday.

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