Zuckerberg’s money won’t go to aid the next round of elections

DENVER (AP) — The nonprofit that will distribute most of the $350 million in donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to election offices in 2020 said Monday it would not distribute similar donations this year, because of concerns from conservatives. Suspicion that the contribution tilted the outcome of the presidential race toward Joe Biden.

Instead, the Center for Technology and Civic Life is launching a separate program. The US Alliance for Election Excellence, an $80 million, five-year effort, aims to create a network for the nation’s thousands of local election officials who can apply for assistance to improve their technology and processes.

“Unfortunately, years of low investment mean that many local election departments often have limited capacity and training. The US Alliance for Election Excellence is bringing world-class partners together so that local election officials no longer have to go it alone ,” said Tiana Epps-Johnson, executive director of CTCL, who announced the new program at the TED2022 conference.

Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan’s 2020 effort amid the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled conservative anger and distrust of the outcome of the presidential election. At least eight GOP-controlled states last year passed legislation to ban private donations to election offices in response to Zuckerberg’s donation. Skeptical contributions – regularly referred to by conservatives as “Zuckerbucks” – have tilted the result toward Biden, a Democrat who has become a staple among those who believe in former President Donald Trump’s election lies.

Several Republican election officials have said the program was critical and non-partisan and dismissed criticism of it as conspiracy theory.

A spokesman for the foundation run by Zuckerberg and Chan confirmed that the couple is not funding election offices this year.

Ben LaBault said, “As Mark and Priscilla made clear earlier, the donation of their electoral infrastructure helps ensure that Americans can vote during the height of the pandemic, a move given the unprecedented nature of the crisis.” The bar was donated.” “They have no plans to repeat that donation.”

Epps-Johnson said the group saw in 2020 how many local election offices are lacking. Elections in the US are run at the local level, sometimes by a small staff of city or county workers and volunteers. One jurisdiction, CTCL said, used its 2020 grant to replace age-old electoral tabulation tools, and many struggled to maintain useful websites providing voter information on mobile devices.

The network will work with technology experts at Stanford University and elsewhere, Epps-Johnson said. Local elections offices will be able to apply for aid, but things will work differently than they were two years ago.

In 2020, election offices were scrambling to switch to mail voting as the pandemic made it harder to maintain traditional polling places. Negotiations over additional funding for election offices broke down amid heated partisan skirmishes in Washington. In late August of that year, Zuckerberg announced his donation, and CTCL spent a wide range of expenses, including new counting equipment, pickup trucks to haul voting machines, and public relations campaigns advertising new methods of casting. Distributed funds to 2,500 election offices. ballot paper

Conservatives were immediately skeptical. Many have long trusted Zuckerberg, believing that he uses his social media platforms to help Democrats. The CTCL is a non-partisan group respected by the election administrators of both parties, but its founders have their roots in liberal politics. And although the grants went to conservative and liberal areas, Democratic-leaning counties received a disproportionate share of the money in battlefield areas such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

The CTCL has insisted on greater government funding of election offices since the 2020 contests, saying it would be better served by another round of private donations. The nonprofit was encouraged by Biden’s request for $10 billion in election funding in the federal budget released last month.

Still, the movement, fueled by Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud, has as one of its many complaints over the 2020 donation to how the election was conducted. For example, in Colorado’s GOP assembly on Saturday, candidate after candidate referred to Zuckerberg and “Zuckerbucks” because they claimed the election was stolen from Republicans.

“Mark Zuckerberg and his shadow forces should never be in charge of our elections,” said Tina Peters, county clerk under indictment last year for her role in illegal downloads of voting software provided to Trump supporters. She made the remarks to the crowd in Colorado Springs as she proceeded to vote for the party’s primary for the state’s top election office, Secretary of State.

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