Forsyth and Brunswick Counties in North Carolina are no longer members of a left-wing dark money group seeking to influence local election operations, The Federalist has learned.
A pair of letters written by Forsyth and Brunswick’s respective election directors confirm the counties have ended their memberships with the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. As The Federalist previously reported, the Alliance is an $80 million venture launched in 2022 by left-wing nonprofits such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to “systematically influence every aspect of election administration” and advance Democrat-backed voting policies in local election offices.
Forsyth and Brunswick were announced as two of 10 inaugural members of the Alliance in November 2022, with the latter’s election board voting as recently as April 2023 to retain the county’s membership in the coalition.
During the 2020 election, CTCL and the Center for Election Innovation and Research collectively 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 towards Democrat-majority counties, essentially making it a massive Democrat get-out-the-vote operation.
According to the Capital Research Center, North Carolina received $7.2 million from CTCL ahead of the 2020 contest, with the nonprofit giving “grants to 6 of the 26 counties Biden won.” Not including a massive statewide grant, those “6 counties accounted for 64 percent of all grants paid [directly] to counties in the Tar Heel state, totaling just under $1.9 million.”
In his Nov. 9, 2023, letter to the Alliance, Tim Tsujii, Forsyth’s director of elections, explained that the county’s withdrawal from the coalition stemmed from its election board’s inability to “fully participate in all upcoming Alliance activities due to the immense amount of work and preparation needed to effectively administer the 2024 election cycle.” He also noted the board’s desire to “not take away from another elections office” seeking to participate in the organization.
It’s worth mentioning that Tsujii — who sits on CTCL’s advisory committee — previously told RealClearInvestigations in January 2023 that Forsyth County would not be accepting monies from the Alliance because the locality possessed ample funds “to run effective elections.” Tsujii expressed concern to RCI about how the Alliance would spend participating office’s membership fees, saying: “There is all this talk about the money going to elections offices and the counties, but what about the money going from the counties to the alliance?”
(Tsujii issued these comments before North Carolina’s “Zuckbucks” ban was enshrined into law.)
A 2023 report published by the Honest Elections Project (HEP) and John Locke Foundation noted how the Alliance originally sought to provide election offices with “scholarships” to cover membership costs, which would then be “converted into ‘credits’ that member offices [could] use to buy services from CTCL and other Alliance partners.” As HEP Executive Director Jason Snead noted in a previous interview with The Federalist, however, CTCL opted to shift its “original model to a fee-based membership model” as a way of skirting existing “Zuckbucks” bans.
“For jurisdictions that are permitted to receive grants, those fees are effectively waived. But jurisdictions that cannot receive private grants can still buy their way in for a relatively small sum, allowing the Alliance to spread its influence even in states where lawmakers have tried to prevent it,” Snead explained.
Similar to Tsujii, Sara LaVere, Brunswick County’s director of elections, wrote to the Alliance on Dec. 8, 2023, explaining the locality’s departure from the coalition stemmed from her inability to “dedicate the time and attention required to contribute fully to the invaluable work that the organization is doing.”
“Being a part of the Alliance has been a rewarding experience, and I am truly thankful for the connections I have made,” LaVere wrote.
As detailed in HEP and the John Locke Foundation’s 2023 report, LaVere enjoyed a close relationship with the Alliance, even going as far as to collaborate with its officials on responding to criticisms of CTCL from one of Brunswick’s GOP election board members. According to the report, LaVere defended CTCL “using talking points and hyperlinks provided by the Alliance specifically to rebut public criticism of the program.”
“LaVere admitted that the county had already been using materials templated by CTCL and the Center for Civic Design, such as pocket voter guides, and that she had even participated in social media and poll worker trainings conducted by CTCL,” the report reads. “LaVere also noted that The Elections Group … helped her write columns that were published during the recent election season.”
When pressed on why Forsyth and Brunswick Counties are still listed as Alliance members on the Alliance’s website despite their respective withdrawals from the organization last year, a CTCL representative said the coalition is “proud” to have had both counties “in the inaugural cohort” and explained that the Alliance website is “undergoing updates which will be released soon.”
During an interview with The Federalist, Snead highlighted how both Forsyth and Brunswick Counties are citing “the demands of the program for why they’re withdrawing,” and further noted how their election directors are saying “they need to be focused on … running elections for their communities instead of participating in this national, left-wing Alliance program.”
“The Alliance says that it’s there to help these offices, [but] it sounds like it’s actually requiring quite a lot of work from these offices and has become a bit of a distraction and a burden,” Snead said.