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Before adjourning the 2022 legislative session, the Iowa Legislature passed a vital provision in House File 2589 protecting the conduct of fair and transparent elections in Iowa. An issue that had been discussed throughout the legislative session in the State Government Committee was election integrity. One of the most important ways to ensure the integrity of elections is to eliminate the direct influence of outside private money to conduct official election administration. In the 2020 elections, the politically left-leaning Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), an organization largely funded and partnered with Mark Zuckerberg, Google, and Facebook, spent over $4,400,000 in Covid-19 Response Grant Programs in 63 of Iowa’s counties. These donations were not to political campaigns or advertisements, but money directly given to election officials who oversee elections in Iowa. Zuckerberg donated $350 million to CTCL in order to, in his words, ensure “people are aware that the infrastructure is in place to make every vote count so they can accept the result of the election as legitimate.”

If the intent to spend that much money in local election infrastructure was to build trust in the election process, the effect was quite the opposite. Private funding used in the election process has only raised questions about potential influence of voter turnout, election outcomes, access to voter information, and influence of the large corporations who donated the money. While describing their work in a non-partisan fashion, all three founders of CTCL were staff at the New Organizing Institute, a left-leaning organization that provided data, digital, and other trainings to progressive campaigns and organizers. The majority of counties that received grants from the CTCL voted for Joe Biden. The amounts of money per voter in these counties also skews towards counties that voted for Biden. Counties that voted for Biden got an average of $4.41 per registered voter, compared to counties that supported Trump received an average of $0.91 per registered voter. Polk County received $6.01 per registered voter, Linn County $4.63, and Johnson County received $3.43 per registered voter.

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Continuing the work House Republicans have done over the years to protect election integrity, Section 29 of House File 2589 prohibits the Secretary of State or any county auditor from accepting funding that is not lawfully appropriated public money from the federal, state, or local government for conduction elections. The prohibition includes accepting grants or gifts from private individuals for the purpose of conducting elections. County auditors are still allowed to accept the contribution of the use of a building as a polling location as long as it meets Iowa Code and Administrative Code requirements for such a use.

This new piece of legislation will be important for the midterm general elections in November. Iowans deserve to know how their local elections are funded and conducted to have faith in election results. Iowa has strong election integrity laws including voter ID requirements, 100% paper ballots, mandatory audits of voting equipment and precinct results, and routine voter registration maintenance. This latest provision will ensure that outside influence does not pose a threat to the confidence in our secure elections.

Author: Press Release

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