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By Dan Hart
The Washington Stand

On Tuesday, voters in Wisconsin’s state primary enacted two ballot initiatives designed to strengthen election integrity by restricting private donations for conducting elections and to only allow lawfully designated election officials to administer elections. Election integrity experts applauded the results as a clear indicator of the American public’s desire to strengthen the security of elections following irregularities that occurred in the 2020 election.

The first question asked voters to decide if the state’s constitution should be amended “to provide that private donations and grants may not be applied for, accepted, expended, or used in connection with the conduct of any primary, election, or referendum.” The measure passed with over 54% voting “yes.”

The second question asked if the constitution should be amended “to provide that only election officials designated by law may perform tasks in the conduct of primaries, elections, and referendums.” This measure passed by a wider margin, with over 58% voting “yes.”

While Wisconsin voters took to the polls Tuesday, Trevor Carlsen, a senior research fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, joined “Washington Watch” to describe the impetus behind the ballot questions, beginning with Question 1.

“[T]here was this grant program that was orchestrated by an organization called the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), and they were using $400 million … from Mark Zuckerberg and one of his foundations to distribute money to election offices in the 2020 election under the guise of ‘protecting people from transmission of COVID-19,’” he explained. “… What we found, though, was that … a large share ended up being used for ‘get-out-the-vote’ efforts. If you have nefarious intentions, an organization can then … unequally distribute grant dollars to jurisdictions that they deem to be important for outcomes that they prefer. And it puts the thumb on the scale of election outcomes and can drive up voter turnout in areas where they will get the benefit that they’re looking for in terms of outcomes.”

Carlsen further observed that 27 other states have already prohibited outside organizations from targeting money for election administration. “[I]t’s important to note Wisconsin was actually ground zero for ‘Zuckerbucks’ back in 2020,” he added. “Even before Mark Zuckerberg and his wife made their donation to CTCL, the big five municipalities in Wisconsin were already in conversations about getting private funding. At the time, they were talking about $6.3 million. After Mr. Zuckerberg’s money was added to the pot, that climbed to $8.5 million for those five jurisdictions alone out of the $10.1 million total that was spread throughout Wisconsin.”

Carlsen went on to characterize Question 2 as “extremely important.”

“[Y]ou would think that it wouldn’t have to be said that the clerk of elections should be the one running elections,” he remarked. “But in 2020, in Green Bay, there was an issue where the mayor’s office was getting involved, and they even had an outside consultant who was really a Democratic operative who was … offering to help with the curing process for ballots and was reportedly also given keys. … [I]t comes down to trust as well in that when you have these outside influencers, it’s going to distort people’s view of whether or not [an] election is actually being conducted as it was intended to be.”

Wisconsin Republican officials commended Tuesday’s results. “Wisconsin has spoken and the message is clear: elections belong to voters, not out-of-state billionaires,” Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Brian Schimming stated. “Wisconsinites have turned the page on Zuckerbucks and secured our elections from dark money donors.”

Matt Carpenter, who serves as director of FRC Action, was also encouraged by the passage of the two questions. “Wisconsin voters approved two ballot initiatives to bring some much-needed improvements to how the state administers elections,” he told The Washington Stand. “Getting these initiatives on the ballot is a great way to encourage voters worried about election integrity out to vote, and to give them confidence third parties are not acting nefariously in strategic areas to influence how elections are run.”

Carpenter added, “What was significant about last night’s results for me was that the number of voters who supported each measure outpaced the number of voters who came out to vote in the presidential primary, suggesting there is bipartisan support for these reforms.”

Originally published at The Washinton Stand!


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