Wisconsin voters offer proposal to prohibit private financing in elections

On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters were voting on two Republican-backed constitutional amendments, one of which would prohibit the use of private funds to run campaigns in response to grants received in 2020 from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The other suggestion would limit election administration to lawfully designated authorities. That is already the law, but adding it to the Wisconsin Constitution would make it more difficult to remove.

Democrats opposed both bills, claiming they would make it more difficult to hold elections in the presidential battleground state.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., following an early in-person absentee voting period that began two weeks ago.

Wisconsin voters offer proposal to prohibit private financing in elections

Both proposed constitutional amendments are in response to a grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a liberal organization that advocates for voter rights, which arrived in Wisconsin in 2020. That year, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated $300 million to the organization to help election officials buy materials and hold elections during the COVID-19 pandemic before vaccines were available.

President Joe Biden won all five of the state’s major cities, and each collected $8.8 million. They were one of about 200 Wisconsin communities to receive approximately $10 million as part of a $350 million national distribution.

Republicans who branded the money “Zuckerbucks” argued that the majority of the cash went to Democratic strongholds, accusing the billionaire of attempting to sway the vote. The argument arose amid bogus assertions by former President Donald Trump and his supporters that rampant voter fraud contributed to Biden’s 2020 victory.

Since 2020, Republicans in at least 27 states have banned or restricted private election grants.

Republicans and conservative groups, such as the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Election Integrity for Wisconsin, favor the Wisconsin initiatives. They are opposed by a number of government watchdog and liberal organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause Wisconsin, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

Not a single Democratic lawmaker supported the proposal, which was then divided into two issues on the ballot. Opponents of the amendments worry that they may lead to attempts to suppress present practices that increase voter participation.

Three courts and the nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission rejected arguments about the grant money’s legality.

Republicans, who dominate the Legislature, proposed the constitutional modifications to avoid Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who would virtually certainly have vetoed the bills. Amendments do not require the governor’s permission.

Wisconsin voters have accepted 148 of 200 proposed constitutional changes since the state constitution was adopted in 1848, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

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