The state of Georgia has made incredible strides in the field of election integrity. Over the past two years, it has proved itself to be a leader by enacting various election reforms designed to protect legal votes and legal voters. One of the most vital reforms it has passed is the banning of private money in elections administration.
Hundreds of millions of private dollars from Mark Zuckerberg’s Center for Tech and Civic Life poured into many swing states during the 2020 election. The stated purpose of these so-called “Zuckerbucks” was to assist with the administration of elections. But these dollars weren’t spread equally.
Of the $144 million provided to eight swing states, $130 million went to liberal-leaning counties and $14 million to conservative-leaning counties. In the aftermath of the election, the realization that private money can carry undue, unfair influence over how public elections are conducted caused 23 states to ban the use of private money in elections administration. Georgia was among these states.
On March 25, 2021, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Senate Bill 202, part of which reads: “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.”
The purpose of this provision was, as stated in the legislative summary, “Promoting uniformity in the distribution of funds to election operations, [which] will boost voter confidence and ensure that there is no political advantage conferred by preferring certain counties over others in the distribution of funds.”
Essentially, Georgia’s leadership recognized that voters aren’t confident in an election when there are special interest groups and politically motivated third parties pulling the financial strings.
However, a law is only as good as its enforcement. On Feb. 2, 2023, DeKalb County announced that it had been selected by the U.S. Alliance for Elections Excellence (USAEE) as a “Center for Elections Excellence.” Though this sounds beneficial, the reality is that the USAEE is a collaboration of organizations that are seeking to invest leftist donor dollars in local elections departments. It is Zuckerbucks 2.0.
As recently reported, DeKalb County is under close scrutiny for accepting $2 million from the USAEE, and there have been calls for an investigation. Georgia’s voters will have a terrible case of déjà vu if the state doesn’t close any legal loopholes that allow counties to partner with the USAEE.
Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1 of the Constitution designates the states as having jurisdiction over elections administration. The Supreme Court understood this clause to mean and has set a precedent establishing that states are responsible for running elections.
This responsibility includes but is not limited to times and places, notices, prevention of fraud and corruption, registration, voting supervision, protection of voters, duties of inspectors and canvassers, vote counting and publishing results. The founding fathers took your vote seriously — and so they wanted to protect it from exterior influence by granting administration jurisdiction to the states instead.
Georgia residents deserve better than to have partisan activists buying and influencing elections administration — and so do the rest of the American people. Through proper enforcement of this law, Georgia can promote election integrity throughout the state.
Ken Blackwell is the Chair of the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute.
Hogan Gidley is the Vice Chair of the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute.
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