Wisconsin took one step closer to securing its elections last week after several Republican legislators introduced measures to prohibit the private funding of elections and withdraw the state from the leftist-controlled voter-roll “maintenance” group known as ERIC.
“I am honored to be a supporting author on the constitutional amendment prohibiting outside money from influencing our elections and election processes,” amendment co-sponsor and GOP Rep. Ty Bodden said in a statement. “We all know Zuckerbucks played a terrible role in the 2020 election and that must never be allowed to happen again.”
In recent years, bills attempting to restrict or ban the use of private money in Wisconsin elections have successfully cleared the Republican-controlled General Assembly only to be vetoed by Democrat Gov. Tony Evers. Using the constitutional amendment process permits Republicans to circumvent Evers’ bid to leave Wisconsin’s elections open to private actors and give voters the final say on the matter.
Under the Wisconsin Constitution, if a constitutional amendment proposal is approved by the legislature in two consecutive sessions, it will then go to the voters for final passage. Wisconsin’s General Assembly passed an amendment similar to the one introduced last week that seeks to ban the use of private money in elections.
According to Bodden, the new amendment proposal is aimed at curbing private actors’ interference in the election process. During the 2020 election, nonprofits such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) and Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) 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; among other things, this was done by expanding unsupervised election protocols like mail-in voting and using 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.
During the 2020 contest, Wisconsin received roughly $10.1 million “Zuckbucks” from CTCL, which “distributed a total of 31 grants above the $5,000 minimum to Wisconsin cities and townships.” Of those 31 grants, 28 went to cities, eight of which were won by Trump and 20 by Biden.
The allowance of “private resources [in elections] will create a race to evade election laws for control of cities in a battle for the state,” amendment co-sponsor and GOP Sen. Eric Wimberger told The Federalist. It is “just a way to pervert the whole elections process and it needs to stop.”
The constitutional amendment banning “Zuckbucks” is likely to receive a vote by the General Assembly in October, according to Wimberger. If successfully passed, the measure would then appear on the ballot during the state’s April elections.
Withdrawing Wisconsin From ERIC
In addition to the “Zuckbucks” ban, another Republican-backed measure introduced last week would withdraw Wisconsin from the leftist-linked voter-roll “maintenance” group known as ERIC.
Otherwise referred to as the Electronic Registration Information Center, ERIC is a widely used voter-roll management organization founded by Democrat activist David Becker that was “sold to states as a quick and easy way to update their voter rolls.” In actuality, ERIC’s membership agreement places a higher priority on registering new voters than cleaning up existing voter rolls.
The program inflates voter rolls by requiring member states to contact eligible but unregistered residents and encourage them to register to vote. As Victoria Marshall wrote in these pages, ERIC mandates states engage in voter list maintenance “only after [they have] independently validated” the data they receive from the organization. In other words, “if a state does not independently validate the ERIC data, it is not required to clean its voter rolls.”
According to a Thursday press release, Bodden and Republican Sen. Duey Stroebel’s new legislation would effectively withdraw Wisconsin from the multi-state organization, which Bodden claimed “has not been forthcoming about voter data security or their dealings with third parties.”
“The voter rolls are not cleaned up like they are supposed to be and the lack of transparency is deeply concerning,” he added.
As indicated by Bodden, ERIC enjoys an active relationship with CEIR, one of the left-wing nonprofits that poured hundreds of millions of “Zuckbucks” into local election offices leading up to the 2020 election. In its relationship with CEIR, ERIC transmits the voter-roll data it receives from states to the organization.
Upon receiving this data, CEIR then creates “targeted mailing lists and sends them back to the states to use for voter registration outreach.” This process essentially allows CEIR — a partisan nonprofit with a history of left-wing activism — to craft lists of eligible but unregistered (and likely Democrat) voters for states to register ahead of elections.
These concerns have since prompted several Republican election officials to withdraw their states from the organization and form separate interstate data-sharing pacts. This growing list includes Alabama, Virginia, and Ohio, among others.