Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a series of bills over the past week banning the use of outside private money and ranked choice voting in elections.
On Monday, the Republican governor signed SB 117, which stipulates that “[a]ll costs and expenses relating to conducting elections must be paid for with public funds.” The passage of the bill makes Montana the 25th state to ban or restrict the use of private money in the conduction of elections.
During the 2020 election, nonprofits such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) received hundreds of millions of dollars from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. These “Zuckbucks” were poured into local election offices in battleground states around the country to change how elections were administered, such as by expanding unsupervised election protocols like mail-in voting and the use of ballot drop boxes. To make matters worse, the grants were heavily skewed toward Democrat-majority counties, essentially making it a massive, privately funded Democrat get-out-the-vote operation.
Ahead of 2024, CTCL and other left-wing nonprofits are once again attempting to interfere in the electoral process under the guise of the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, an $80 million venture designed to “systematically influence every aspect of election administration” and advance Democrat-backed voting policies in local election offices. In its attempt to replicate CTCL’s strategy, the Alliance is attempting to skirt existing “Zuckbucks” bans by providing election officials 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 addition to SB 117, Gianforte also signed into law HB 598, which prohibits the use of ranked choice voting (RCV) in elections. Under RCV, which critics often refer to as “rigged-choice voting,” voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes in the first round of voting, the last-place finisher is eliminated, and his votes are reallocated to the voter’s second-choice candidate. This process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.
While Maine and Alaska are the only two states to employ RCV so far, their respective elections since implementing the system have produced outcomes that clearly contradict the desires of voters. In Maine, then-incumbent GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin lost to Democrat Jared Golden during the 2018 midterms, despite Poliquin winning the most votes in the first round of voting. That outcome was due to the state’s ranked-choice voting system.
Similarly, in Alaska, Democrat Mary Peltola won the state’s at-large congressional seat last year even though “nearly 60 percent of voters [cast] their ballots for a Republican.” RCV also played a major role in helping Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski fend off a challenge from Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka during the 2022 midterms. The system allowed her to win due to being listed second on Alaska Democrats’ ranked-choice ballots.
In addition to Montana, other states that have banned the use of ranked choice voting in elections are Florida, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Idaho. Meanwhile, Alaska and Texas are considering RCV bans.