Arizona lawmakers move to block private funds for elections

HB 2569 would ban grants like the $6 million last year from the Mark Zuckerberg-backed Center for Tech and Civic Life that was used to help fund elections in Arizona. /Flickr/Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.com

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services 

Raising the specter of Mark Zuckerberg influencing who holds office in Arizona, Republican lawmakers moved Monday to block counties from taking money from any private source to help run future elections.

The party-line vote by the Senate Government Committee on HB 2569 follows the disclosure that nine Arizona counties got more than $6 million last year from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. The grants were to help defray some of the costs of running an election during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jennifer Marson, executive director for the Arizona Association of Counties.

Marson pointed out to legislators that the four of the nine counties had Republican majorities, four had more Democrats and voter registration is close to evenly split in Maricopa County. And in each case, she said, the grants, including how the money would be spent, were approved by county supervisors.

But former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who is now heading the Capital Research Center, said that doesn’t prove anything.

Walker, whose organization that says it studies unions, environmental groups and nonprofit and “activist” groups, said Republicans did better in turnout in 2020 than prior years in the six counties which didn’t get CTCL grants.

“But in funded counties, Democratic turnout rocketed upward,” Walker said. “Funding a county helps Democrats almost twice as much as it helps Republicans.”

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