(The Center Square) — The Georgia Senate signed off on legislation prohibiting counties from soliciting or accepting donations to help with election administration.
Senate Bill 222 stipulates that public funds must cover election administration costs, barring government employees and elections officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $200 from third-party groups to conduct primaries or elections.
The measure makes it a felony for elections officials to accept gifts. It does not apply to the use of locations for voting.
“It is vital that our primaries and elections are paid for with lawfully appropriated public funds,” state Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, said in a release. “Elections in our state should not be interfered with by third-party organizations or people who operate on a different set of regulations and agendas than our election officials and government employees.
“It should be up to the State Board of Elections to determine where such funds are most needed,” Burns added. “We must ensure that elections are held and conducted fairly and ethically.”
Reactions to the measure were mixed.
“The hypocrisy of the Georgia legislature giving tax credits to corporations that donate to police departments while outlawing people from donating to their local board of elections sends the message that they prefer a police state instead of a voting democracy,” Christopher Bruce, ACLU of Georgia policy director, said in a statement last week. “Every Georgian should be alarmed at the erosion of voting accessibility these past years by the state legislature.”
In a statement after the Georgia Senate Ethics Committee advanced the measure, Jason Snead, executive director of Honest Elections Project Action, pointed to a $2 million grant the U.S Alliance for Election Excellence awarded DeKalb County. The Center for Tech and Civic Life, which has benefited from donations from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, helped launch the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence as part of an $80 million initiative.
“Georgia law already prohibits CTCL’s recent $2 million grant to DeKalb County,” Snead said. “…Nevertheless, Georgia lawmakers are right to remove any shadow of doubt. …The private funding of election administration sows distrust in our elections and should be stopped wherever it occurs.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor