WI Senate Passes Bill to Prohibit Counties, Not State, from Accepting Private Funding for Election Administration

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: With an image of himself on a screen in the background, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg testified about Facebook's proposed cryptocurrency …
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The Wisconsin State Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit counties and municipalities from accepting private funding for election administration, but would allow the Wisconsin Election Commission to accept such funding and distribute those funds equally within the state on a per capita basis.

The bill, SB 207, which was co-sponsored by all 21 Republican members of the 33 member State Senate, passed in a 25 to zero recorded vote.

“No official or agent of a county or municipality may apply for or accept any donation or grant of private resources for purposes of election administration,” the bill reads:

If the commission accepts a donation or grant of moneys from an individual or nongovernmental entity for purposes of election administration, the commission may not expend those moneys except as follows:

(a) the commission shall distribute the moneys to each municipality in this state on a per capita basis, except that if a distribution under this subdivision would result in any municipality receiving a sum of less than $25, the commission may retain the donation or grant and may apply the donation or grant to offset the commission’s own expenses related to the administration of elections until such time as the commission accepts additional moneys under this subsection that, in total, would result in a minimum distribution amount of $25 or more.

(b) The commission may expend a donation or grant of moneys accepted under this subsection only as approved by the joint committee on finance.

The Wisconsin bill stands in stark contrast to the Arizona bill signed into law last week by Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ), which explicitly prohibits any private funding in that state for election administration at any level of government–state, county, or municipal.

Both houses of the state legislatures in Wisconsin and Arizona are controlled by Republicans. Arizona has a Republican governor, while Wisconsin’s governor, Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI), is a Democrat.

Empower Wisconsin reported:

“This bill is about fairness,” said Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), co-author of the legislation. Stroebel, a member of the committee, asserts there were “significant strings attached” to [the Center for Technology and Civic Life] CTCL’s generous grants, that the money wasn’t an “altruistic blank check donation.”

CTCL, which received $350 million in contributions from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, distributed more than $8 million in election “safety and security” grants last year to Wisconsin’s five largest cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. The cities also happen to be Democratic strongholds.

The “Wisconsin 5,” as the cities were known, had to sign contracts that required them to do what CTCL wanted or they could lose the funding. Emails show Green Bay and Milwaukee worked with a CTCL partner group, the National Vote at Home Institute.  Longtime Democratic operative Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, who served as Wisconsin lead for the institute, was integrally involved in preparing for and administering November’s election in Green Bay and Milwaukee.

The bill now goes to the Wisconsin State Assembly, where Republicans hold a 59 to 38 majority.

Should the bill pass in the Wisconsin State Assembly, it will go to Gov. Evers for signature. A two-thirds vote in both the State Senate and the State Assembly is required to override a potential veto of the bill by Gov. Evers.

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