Despite promises of transparency, the Biden administration is hiding its plans to undermine state control over election laws. Last spring, the White House issued Executive Order (EO) 14019, “Promoting Access to Voting.” The EO required every federal agency to submit a plan to register voters and encourage voter participation. It also required agencies to form strategies to invite non-governmental third parties to register voters.
To date, few details have been released—and naturally, there are questions. What will these plans involve? To what degree and why will federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense, the Bureau of Land Management, and others be involved in get-out-the-vote drives? Who will determine that third parties selected to register voters are appropriately non-partisan?
The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) responded to rising concerns about the ambiguity and radio silence on the details of this EO by submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in July 2021. We wanted answers to completely reasonable questions about the EO, but the administration ignored our FOIA request.
To date, no federal agency has responded with the records we requested. What is the administration trying to hide?
We’ve got an answer: Their silence is an attempt to get America to look the other way while they illegally involve themselves in state elections, which is far, far beyond the constitutional purview of the executive branch.
It’s not difficult to see the motive behind this executive order. In the 2020 election, Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg funneled more than $350 million—“Zuckbucks”—to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which was then sent to election officials across the country. While supposedly intended as assistance to operate elections during Covid-19, most jurisdictions used it for get-out-the-vote efforts. The funds were also targeted to predominantly Democrat districts and had the effect of boosting voter turnout in left-leaning areas.
Zuckbucks happened because no laws prevented it from happening. Once the extent of Zuckbucks was brought to light, states took action banning third-party funding in future elections. Several states also closed other loopholes and increased protections to stop any potential interference in local elections.
Attempts to block states’ efforts failed in Congress, so this EO became the administration’s only option as a backdoor into state elections.
Despite state legislatures taking the security of their elections into their hands, as they are expressly elected to do, the Biden administration is strong-arming the executive branch and trespassing in state elections, where it does not belong and is not constitutionally permitted. This violates the separation of power embodied in our Constitution and is clearly at odds with both the Elections and Electors Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The president lacks the legal authority required for the executive branch to intervene in elections the way EO 14019 directs. This means those federal agencies that comply with this order will surely exceed the scope of their authority, providing grounds for either Congress to intervene, or states to sue.
FGA is taking the next logical step in obtaining the transparency that the administration so emphatically promised. On April 20, we filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in Middle District of Florida to compel them to provide us answers to pressing questions about the plans and strategies involved in this EO.
The clock is ticking—midterm elections are less than six months away. Yet when asked about an EO that essentially turns the daily business of federal government agencies into voter registration and mobilization drives, the American people are met with silence from the White House.
Americans should be wondering what the administration is trying to hide by their evasiveness. And every American voter should be demanding answers and the transparency that was originally promised by this administration.