Election /

Election Integrity Policies Move Forward in Georgia and Virginia

Both bills included regulations for grants, donations, and contributions provided by private entities

Two states advanced laws designed to strengthen election protections and prevent private funding from impacting the democratic process.

The policies were proposed following concerns regarding the 2020 election.

Georgia’s proposed election policy would regulate several aspects of election procedure, ranging from appointing poll watchers, managing ballots, and granting authority to law enforcement tasked with investigating elections.

House Bill 1464 states “any private person or nongovernmental entity that seeks to provide a grant, gift, or donation to the state or to a superintendent for any purpose relating to election administration, including preparing for, administering, or conducting an election, voter registration, or voter education, shall file an application for approval of such grant, gift, or donation with the State Election Board.”

Any “grant, gift, or donation” can only be authorized if the State Election Board rules it “serves the electors of Georgia and does not offer any partisan advantage.”

The Board must develop a procedure that will oversee the “fair and equitable distribution of such funds” and must do so “regardless of the intent of the donor.”

Under the policy, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has the ability to investigate allegations of election fraud. The GBI would have the power to subpoena documents as part of their investigation. 

The bill also gives procedural instructions for overcrowded polling places, for the storage and documentation of election documents, and for the distribution and disclosure of absentee ballots. 

Following a 98-73 vote, the Georgia House passed the bill which will now be considered by the state’s senate.

Similar efforts to oversee the ethical distribution of private election funding also advanced in Virginia, where House Bill 205 was passed by both the House and Senate in early March. The bill aims to define what types of gifts and funding election officials can accept in order to prevent any biased actions.

The bill “prohibits state and local elections officials from soliciting, accepting, using, or disposing of any moneys, grants, property, or services given by a private individual or nongovernmental entity for the purpose of funding voter education and outreach programs, voter registration programs, or any other expense incurred in the conduct of elections.”

Virginia lawmakers are seeking to prohibit a private individual or nongovernmental entity from fully furnishing polling places or voter satellite offices. Additionally, legislatures want to ban the “acceptance of a federal government grant funded in whole or part by donations from private individuals or nongovernmental entities are not violations of this prohibition.”

H.B. 205 passed on March 50-47 with three abstentions.

The companion bill, S.B. 80, was unanimously passed by the Senate on Feb. 1.

Delegate Otto Wachsmann Jr., who introduced the bill in the House, said the move prevented “outside entities” from being able “to influence how elections are run by the state.”

“While nongovernmental groups are allowed to conduct events like voter registration drives outside of our governmental agencies, this bill clarifies that they have no business directly influencing the way that our registrars and electoral boards conduct their business,” Wachsmann told The Federalist. “That is the sole role of our governmental agencies. I am pleased that the General Assembly has agreed with this concept.”

He noted that the Center for Tech and Civic Life spent about $4 million of grant money provided by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during the 2020 election cycle. A report from the Capital Research Center found that 90% of the funding (approximately $3.4 million) was spent in 14 counties that were ultimately won by President Joe Biden.

The bill will now need to be signed by Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has previously voiced support for ensuring election integrity efforts in Virginia. 

Zuckerberg’s financial efforts during the 2020 election have been questioned by officials in several states across the country.

The Augusta Chronicle reported that three counties in Georgia — Richmond, Columbia and Lincoln — all received Zuckerberg-funded grants from the CTCL in 2020.

A special counsel in Michigan ruled on March 1 that CTCL grants funded by Zuckerberg violated state bribery laws.  

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