After scoring significant victories in the legislature in the 2022 midterms, North Carolina Republicans are introducing legislation that would bar state and local election officials from accepting or using private money to conduct elections.
SB 89 stipulates that state and local election boards, as well as county boards of commissioners, are prohibited from accepting “private monetary donations, directly or indirectly, for conducting elections or employing individuals on a temporary basis.”
Concerns surrounding the use of private money to conduct elections became prominent following the 2020 election cycle, during which Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg gifted nonprofits such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) hundreds of millions of dollars. These “Zuckbucks” were then siphoned into local election offices in battleground states around the country to change how elections were administered, such as by expanding unsecure election protocols like mail-in voting and the use of ballot drop boxes.
To make matters worse, the grants were heavily skewed towards Democrat-majority counties, essentially making it a massive Democrat get-out-the-vote operation. In the lead-up to the 2020 contest, for example, CTCL gave an estimated $5.4 million to election offices throughout North Carolina. According to figures from the Capital Research Center, a majority of the county grants (64 percent) went to those won by Joe Biden.
While 24 states have passed laws banning or restricting the use of private money in elections, groups such as CTCL are once again attempting to interfere in the 2024 elections through a coalition known as the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. Launched last year, the Alliance is an $80 million venture by left-wing nonprofits to “systematically influence every aspect of election administration” and advance Democrat-backed voting policies in local election offices.
To skirt existing “Zuckbucks” bans, the coalition provides election offices with “scholarships” to cover Alliance membership costs. These scholarships are then “instantly converted into ‘credits’ that member offices can use to buy services from CTCL and other Alliance partners.”
In Georgia — where lawmakers adopted a law prohibiting private election funding two years ago — DeKalb County officials attempted to violate the spirit of the state’s “Zuckbucks” ban by accepting a $2 million grant from the Alliance. To avoid explicitly breaking the law, DeKalb officials used a loophole in the statute by having their finance department apply for the funds instead of the county’s election board. The Georgia Senate has since passed a measure that, if approved by the House and signed into law, would tighten up the language in the state’s “Zuckbucks” ban and require DeKalb to return the money to the Alliance.
Several election offices previously deemed “centers for election excellence” by the Alliance have begun raising concerns over such shady practices, specifically how the coalition utilizes membership fees paid by participating localities. Brunswick and Forsyth Counties in North Carolina, which were selected to be Alliance members last year, have been among those to reject funding grants from the Alliance.
If passed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly, SB 89 would likely meet resistance from Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper, who vetoed a similar measure in 2021. While Republicans have the numbers to override a potential veto in the Senate, they’re one seat shy of a supermajority in the House of Representatives. Assuming all House Republicans vote for the bill in the event of a veto, they would need the support of at least one Democrat in order for the measure to become law.