Ongoing efforts by state legislatures in Georgia and elsewhere to ban private donations to local election offices could cripple America’s elections process, warned one voting advocacy group, Democracy Docket.
“Underfunded elections will exacerbate all the problems–long lines, slow vote counting, poor staffing–that plague our elections,” the Democratic-funded group said in its latest newsletter. “We can expect our elections to become more vulnerable to errors, and it will be harder for elections offices to improve election security in the face of new threats.”
During the 2020 elections cycle, local elections offices nationwide relied heavily on private donations and grants to hire extra help, buy new equipment and masks, and fulfill other necessary tasks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But as this year’s midterms approach, local elections offices in Georgia and elsewhere are losing that extra funding.
Since the 2020 election, 29 states, most with Republican-led legislatures, have proposed laws to prohibit private money and grants, according to Democracy Docket, a voting advocacy group founded by Democratic voting rights lawyer Marc Elias in 2020.
Nearly half of those states, including Georgia, have passed laws to prevent underfunded county elections offices from accepting that money. An election reform law, SB 202, that the state legislature passed last year bans this kind of outside help in Georgia.
The wave of GOP-back legislation is largely fueled by concerns that outside money from wealthy Democratic donors like Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan influenced the 2020 elections. Through their group, Center for Tech and Civic Life, the pair disbursed $350 million nationally to county elections offices hard-hit by the pandemic.
Much of the legislation making the rounds nationwide was crafted by Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups, Democracy Docket said. “Republican bans on outside money will likely make the underfunding of our elections worse,” it added.
Meanwhile, local election offices are feeling the hit, according to the Democratic group’s report:
- Cobb County’s election office received $5.6 million from the Center for Tech and Civic Life for the 2020 election cycle. Other metro Atlanta counties also received substantial funding from the group. Fulton received about $6 million from the center in 2020.
- Coconino County in Arizona used a $614,000 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to run ads promoting voting options in both English and Navajo and hire 19 extra staffers to help Navajo Nation residents register and vote.
- Philadelphia used $10 million in donations to buy new machines to handle the unprecedented surge in mail-in ballots.
- Wisconsin’s five largest cities collectively received $6.3 million in donations to open voting sites, set up drive-through voting and drop boxes, and provide personal protective equipment to poll workers.