Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a bill prohibiting private financing for government election processes in the state. Both the Arizona Senate and House approved the bill along party lines, and the governor signed it into law on Friday, April 9.
“With public confidence in our elections in peril, it’s clear our elections must be pristine and above reproach — and the sole purview of government,” Ducey announced in a signing letter.
Ducey made the announcement after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated $419 million to two nonprofit organizations, including the Center for Election Innovation and Research, that helped fund local and state election administration ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
At the time of the announcement, the couple stated that “many counties and states are strapped financially and working to determine how to staff and fund operations that will allow for ballots to be cast and counted in a timely way.”
Republicans who run the legislature voted in favor of the bill, though some questioned how county officials spent the money. During a Senate vote last week, Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard urged senators to support the bill, claiming that private election financing would become the newest way for businesses and wealthy donors to exert leverage.
Democrats argued that if the legislature offered adequate funding to county election officials to administer elections, the grants would be unnecessary.
“It’s easy to make a boogeyman our of billionaires. I don’t like them either. But we put ourselves in this situation,” Democrat Sen. Juan Mendez said of the legislature’s budgeting decisions. “Our elections are so underfunded we’ve got counites out there asking for money to do voter outreach.”
A separate nonprofit, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, received Zuckerberg and Chan’s donations for nine Arizona counties. Counties spent grant money on poll workers’ training and salaries, voter education, and renting venues large enough to allow safe gaps between voters at in-person polls.
Back in 2020, a group of voters organized to file a lawsuit to prevent the channeling of millions of dollars from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google, and other Silicon Valley technology firms through the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), which they said was trying to influence the results of the November presidential election.
According to a report by Breitbart last September, voters in four states grouped under the Project Friendship organization filed federal lawsuits stating that the use of funds that technology companies, and especially Zuckerberg, were channeling through the CTCL, violating a federal law known as the Help America Vote Act, which prohibits local governments from accepting federal election donations without prior state legislative approval, to avoid generating government favoritism in the election process.
The complaint alleged that the CTCL used funds to provide “grants” to local municipal governments to finance election activities. These efforts intentionally targeted historically Democratic localities to increase voter participation in those areas that won a large majority for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election to influence the 2020 election and maintain those advantages.