U.S. House considers federal ban on private money to run elections

If enacted, the Protect American Election Administration Act would block what the bill’s sponsors call a “private takeover of government election administration.”

elections
Eight House Republicans have introduced a bill to block the use of private money to operate elections and curb the controversial process called ballot harvesting. (Shutterstock)

(The Daily Signal) — Eight House Republicans have introduced a bill to block the use of private money to operate elections and curb the controversial process called ballot harvesting.

If enacted, the Protect American Election Administration Act would block what the bill’s sponsors call a “private takeover of government election administration.”

The legislation, introduced Thursday, also would prevent private funding for ballot harvesting or ballot curing. (Ballot harvesting is when political operatives collect and gather large quantities of absentee ballots; ballot curing is the term used when election officials try to discern the intent of a voter’s defective ballot.)

And the bill would prevent use of local governments’ election infrastructure to conduct “ideologically motivated voter outreach campaigns.”

“It’s vital that Americans are confident that their vote is secure when they go to the ballot box,” Rep. Jake LaTurner, R-Kan., one of the bill’s eight co-sponsors, told The Daily Signal in a written statement.

“I’m proud to help introduce this commonsense legislation to ensure individuals with political agendas are not interfering with states’ voting processes and laws in an attempt to impact the outcome of American elections,” LaTurner said. “There is no place in our democratic process for the private takeover of our elections systems.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, after spending more than $400 million to provide grants for election administration in 2020, said they would not provide such “Zuckerbucks” again.

Conservatives contend that the Zuckerberg funds disproportionately were targeted in Democratic counties, to increase turnout in blue-leaning precincts.

Last year, the Center for Tech and Civic Life — which distributed the bulk of the Zuckerberg-funded grants — announced the creation of the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence to train local election officials and dole out similar grants.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., is the lead sponsor of the proposed legislation. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., co-chair of the House Election Integrity Caucus, also is among the eight co-sponsors.

“When Americans go to the ballot box, they should have full confidence in the election systems that are the bedrock of our great republic,” Cole said in a written statement, adding:

“After a tumultuous 2020 election cycle and as we enter the 2024 presidential election cycle, it is clear that this confidence has taken a hit. The Protect American Election Administration Act would prevent political agendas funded by private dollars from interfering with individual states’ nonpartisan voting processes and ensure Americans have the confidence that their vote truly counts.”

Other House Republicans who are original co-sponsors of the legislation are Reps. Byron Donalds and John Rutherford of Florida, Tracey Mann of Kansas, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, and Pete Sessions of Texas.

The legislation would help protect free and fair elections, Rutherford said.

“Free and fair elections are fundamental to our democracy. I am proud to join Rep. Tom Cole in introducing legislation to block interference from private entities in federal election processes,” Rutherford told The Daily Signal in a written statement. “Americans should be able to rely on the checks and balances of our institutions and trust that they perform in line with how they have legally been designed.”

As noted in my book “The Myth of Voter Suppression,” an investigation in Wisconsin determined that the Zuckerberg grants were used as an improper get-out-the-vote campaign. Other post-election reviews determined that the grants were targeted disparately to Democrat-leaning areas in states such as Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.

The eight House Republicans introduced the election-related bill on the same day the House Administration Committee held a hearing on restoring voter confidence in elections.

House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., announced that separate legislation, called the American Confidence in Elections Act, or ACE Act, would provide more resources for states to operate elections.

The two bills from House Republicans are decidedly different than the so-called For the People Act proposed by the House’s previous Democratic majority, which would nullify state election laws and nationalize administration of elections. This year, Senate Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced a bill that, among other things, would increase federal funding of elections and involve the federal government in recruiting election workers.

 

Fred Lucas
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Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of "The Right Side of History" podcast. Lucas is also the author of "Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump."