Governor of Idaho Signs Bill Designed to Ban Private Funding of Election Administration

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Gov. Brad Little (R-ID) signed a bill into law on Thursday that is designed to ban the private funding of election administration in Idaho.

But Phill Kline, executive director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, told Breitbart News the new Idaho law misses the mark in a major way.

“The law fails in that it actually allows exactly what occurred in 2020, creating a two-tiered election system favoring one voter demographic over the other. In 2020 all of this private money flowed through city and county local appropriations, or through the Secretary of State in several states,” Kline told Breitbart News.

“All of this money must be appropriated by the state legislature because it is required by law to treat every voter equally,” Kline added.

“The U.S. Constitution gives all of the responsibility and authority to manage elections to the state legislatures, not to local governments,” Kline concluded.

Senate Bill 1168, described as a bill that “Adds to existing law to prohibit the use of private moneys for the administration of elections,” states:

34-218. ELECTION ADMINISTRATION — PRIVATE MONEYS PROHIBITED. Elections held in this state must be funded only by lawful appropriations from the government of the United States, the state of Idaho, or other local governments, including counties, cities, and special taxing districts.

No county clerk, local elections office, or other local governing body administering or conducting an election may accept or expend moneys in any amount or accept any items or goods with a total value in excess of one hundred dollars ($100) from any private persons, corporations, organizations, business entities, political parties, or any other private entity.

The bill passed in the Idaho House of Representatives by a vote of 64 to 3 and passed in the Idaho State Senate by a vote of 28 to 7.

Several other states have passed bills designed to eliminate the private funding of election administration, but, as Breitbart News reported earlier this month, the Amistad Project’s Kline believes that, so far, only Arizona has gotten the language of the law right:

Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, signed into law by Gov. Kemp in March, included a clause designed to ban the private funding of election administration, but the Amistad Project’s Phill Kline believes that law  [contains] loopholes.

Kline has praised the simple one sentence language of Arizona’s new law–“Notwithstanding any other law, this state and a city, town, county, school district or other public body that conducts or administers elections may not receive or expend private monies for preparing for, administering or conducting an election, including registering voters” — as the gold standard and model for other states that seek to ban the private funding of election administration.

Private funding of election administration was virtually unknown in the American political system until the 2020 presidential election, when Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated $350 million to the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), which provided funding to county and municipal governments around the country for election administration, and $69 million to the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), which provided funding to 23 state governments, primarily through the Secretary of State’s office, also for the funding of election administration.

Idaho was not one of the 23 states that received funding from the CEIR in 2020.

In contrast, CTCL provided grants to 21 of the 44 counties in Idaho (including Ada County, where Boise is located, the state’s most populous county) for the 2020 election. CTCL has not disclosed the full amount provided in those 21 grants.

CTCL provided a grant in the amount of $489,000 to the Ada County Board of Commissioners on October 15, 2020. The Amistad Project’s Phill Kline tells Breitbart News that the signing of Senate Bill 1168 into law does not prohibit CTCL from providing additional grants to any county or city government in Idaho in the future.

The new law states that, “Elections held in this state must be funded only by lawful appropriations from the government of the United States, the state of Idaho, or other local governments, including counties, cities, and special taxing districts.” (emphasis added)

All of these governmental entities may lawfully appropriate grants, as well as revenues received through traditional sources of government revenue.

Breitbart News asked the office of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden to comment on Kline’s critique of the new Idaho law, but as of press time has not received a response.

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