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Zuckerberg-Backed Group Was Slapped with a Lawsuit for Election Meddling in a Critical Swing State

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

The Wisconsin Voters Alliance (WVA) on Thursday filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Election Commission over the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) – a group whose goal is to "harness the promise of technology to modernize the American voting experience" – for donating millions to five cities in the Badger State. Each of those five cities – Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee and Racine – are all Democratic strongholds.

Key funders for CTCL include Google, Facebook, the Center for Civic Design, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Rock the Vote, Democracy Fund, The Voting Information Project, and the Knight Foundation.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, recently donated $250 million to the CTCL. The donation is part of their pledge to donate $300 million to help election officials deal with the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus.

"Priscilla and I are personally supporting two non-partisan organizations that are working to make sure every voter's voice can be heard this November. We are committing $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life to provide funding for local counties to have the staffing, training, and equipment they need," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post earlier this month. "This will go towards recruiting poll workers (including hazard pay and training), renting polling places, buying PPE for poll workers, providing temporary staffing, supporting drive-through voting, and more. We are committing another $50 million to The Center for Election Innovation & Research that will go to Secretary of State offices across the country -- in both red and blue states -- that are working to ensure states' electoral systems are secure and voters are informed."

According to the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, there are major concerns about CTCL's grants:

Cumulatively, CTCL has thus far granted $16.3 million to the five cities in Wisconsin and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which cast over 82% of their over one million combined total votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016. President Trump won Wisconsin by 22,748 votes and Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes that year.

In Wisconsin, CTCL has granted a total of $6.3 million in municipal funding from private sources to the Cities of Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine. The grants were issued directly to the cities and not the Wisconsin Board of Elections, which is responsible for managing elections throughout the state. A plurality of the funds — about 40% — went to support both vote-by-mail and early voting efforts. Around $1 million dollars went to "voter outreach and education efforts."

The WVA's complaint states the CTCL violated Wisconsin state law that prohibits money being given to election officials "to induce persons to vote or influence an election outcome."

“This initiative by CTCL is clearly designed to provide a boost in registered voters, limited only to traditional leftist strongholds, in a critical swing state that is likely to determine the outcome of the presidential election on November 3, 2020,” Phill Kline, Director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, which is representing the WVA, said in a statement. “Allowing private monies to control state spending on voter turnout is an invitation to the state to engage in partisan politics in the operation of elections that represents a present danger that favors one class of voters at the expense of others – clearly picking winners and losers in a critical swing state that may determine the outcome of the presidential election this year."

WVA will appeal any adverse decision the Wisconsin Election Commission makes. Should it go to a District Court, the WVA will also add an additional claim: that utilizing this fund violates the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution and is a violation of equal protection.

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