Four Federal Lawsuits Filed to Prevent Privatization of Election Process

Federal lawsuits were filed today in four different swing states to block hundreds of millions of dollars donated by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg from being used by city governments in local election efforts.

Zuckerberg recently donated $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a left-leaning election group devoted to increasing voter participation. The donation has raised alarms about the influence of private parties on elections and the overall integrity of November’s election process. The CTCL has been providing grants exclusively to Democrat stronghold cities in an effort to turn out the vote.

The lawsuits have been filed in Michigan by the Election Integrity Fund, in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Voters’ Alliance, in Minnesota by the Minnesota Voters’ Alliance, and in Pennsylvania by two Congressional candidates and multiple state house members. All four states swung in favor of Donald Trump in 2016, but the cities whose election efforts are being funded by CTCL all voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton that year. 

The CTCL has provided nearly $26 million in grants across 12 different cities, which combined cast over 75% of their 2 million votes in favor of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. 

Jurisdiction/CityGrant AmountTrumpClintonClinton %
Green Bay City, WI$1,093,40019,82121,29151.79%
Kenosha City, WI$862,77915,82922,84959.07%
Madison City, WI$1,271,78823,053120,07883.89%
Milwaukee City, WI$2,154,50045,167188,65380.68%
Racine City, WI$942,1008,93419,02968.05%
Philadelphia City, PA$10,000,000108,748584,02584.30%
Wayne County, MI-Detroit$3,512,0007,682234,87196.83%
Flint City, MI$475,6254,57224,79084.42%
East Lansing, MI$8,5004,14713,07375.9%
Lansing, MI$440,00011,21932,71674.46%
Minneapolis City, MN$3,000,00025,693174,58587.17%
Delaware County, PA$2,200,000110,667177,40261.58%

CTCL is partnered with other progressive organizations such as the Democracy Fund, the Skoll Foundation, and Rock the Vote. 

“This partisan privatization of our elections can’t stand,” said Tom Brejcha, President of the Thomas More Society, which is representing the plaintiffs of all four lawsuits. “Imagine a future where wealthy individuals can essentially purchase the county or city election apparatus anywhere through such creative grants to accomplish their personal objectives.” 

The lawsuits argue that federal law preempts cities from accepting private federal election grants, and that those cities that have partnered with and received funds from the CTCL have done so without legal authority. They invoke several U.S. election laws and codes, including the Elections Clause from the U.S. Constitution and the Help America Vote Act.

“Government cannot be in the business of playing favorites in elections,” explained Phill Kline, the Director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society. “These targeted funds pay government officials to turn out the vote in blue jurisdictions while the governors in these states are making it difficult and actually discouraging in-person voting on Election Day in more conservative areas of the states. Government targeting Democrat portions of a state to increase voter turnout, while also targeting Republican areas of the state to make it harder to vote, violates the basic premise of American jurisprudence that we are all equal before the law.” 

The lawsuits affirms that private parties are free to spend money directly in efforts to get out the vote, but continues that it is constitutionally impermissible for cities to accept private donations in election processes, especially when it results in discrimination of one type of voter over another.

“While Mark Zuckerberg can use his private funds to help voters,” Kline added, “these city and county officials can’t use the funds from CTCL to favor a certain class of voters over another. America has a dark history of voter suppression before the Voting Rights Act became law. This rigging of the game is the other side of that same coin,” Kline concluded.