Arizona governor signs bill banning private election grants
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed legislation banning the use of private funding for elections but said the money the state received last year from organizations with funding from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s foundation was helpful and used with “integrity.”
But the Republican governor said election officials should not be forced to rely on private grants for voter outreach, staffing or other expenses in the future. While he said nothing in the new law should be interpreted as a sign the state is unappreciative, the bill is needed to preserve the integrity of and voter confidence in elections.
“With public confidence in our elections in peril, it’s clear our elections must be pristine and above reproach — and the sole purview of government,” Ducey said in a signing letter.
Republicans who control the Legislature voted for the measure, with some questioning how county officials used the money. Democrats warned the measure could starve election offices of the funds needed to run secure and efficient elections because lawmakers consistently underfund state and county elections operations.
A ban on private election funding was part of an elections bill in Georgia that has drawn fierce backlash from some high profile businesses and Major League Baseball.
Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard urged members to back the measure during a Senate vote earlier this week, saying private election funding will become the newest way for corporations and wealthy donors to wield influence.
“This makes dark money look like a bright day,” Mesnard said Tuesday. “We should be proactively stopping that before it becomes embedded in America’s election system.”
Democrats say the grants wouldn’t be necessary if the Legislature provided enough money to county election officials to run elections.
“It’s easy to make a boogeyman our of billionaires. I don’t like them either. But we put ourselves in this situation,” Sen. Juan Mendez, a Tempe Democrat, said of the Legislature’s budgeting decisions. “Our elections are so underfunded we’ve got counites out there asking for money to do voter outreach.”
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs used $4.8 million from the Center for Election Innovation and Research for an advertising campaign telling voters when and how to vote, encourage signup for the permanent early voting list, recruit poll workers and combat misinformation before and after the election.
Her office said the money was crucial in education people about how to safely vote during a pandemic.
Nine counties — Apache, Coconino, Graham, La Paz, Maricopa, Navajo, Pima, Pinal and Yuma — also received grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life.
Hobbs said in a statement that she was “deeply disappointed he has preferred to satisfy the conspiracy theorists within his own party instead of taking a stand.”
Ducey pledged to partner with the Legislature to provide elections officials with adequate resources.