PHOENIX — Arizona Republicans voted Wednesday to ban private funding for elections, a response to millions of dollars in grants for the 2020 election from organizations with funding from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s foundation.
The measure was sent to Gov. Doug Ducey following a party-line vote in the Senate, where Democrats warned the measure could starve election offices of the funds needed to run secure and efficient elections. Democrats say the measure is one of several voter suppression bills that could get votes in the Legislature in the coming days weeks.
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.
If the Legislature doesn’t stop it, election funding will become the newest way for corporations and wealthy donors to wield influence, said Sen. J.D. Mesnard, a Chandler Republican.
“This makes dark money look like a bright day,” Mesnard said. “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.
C. Murphy Hebert, a spokeswoman for Hobbs, said the money was crucial in education people about how to safely vote during a pandemic, but would be banned if Ducey signs the bill.
Nine counties — Apache, Coconino, Graham, La Paz, Maricopa, Navajo, Pima, Pinal and Yuma — also received grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, Hebert said.