< Back to 68k.news US front page

Wisconsin voters OK amendments aimed at private election grants after 'Zuckerbucks' scrutiny

Original source (on modern site)

Wisconsin voters on Tuesday approved two referendums that change the state Constitution to prohibit clerks from using private grants to administer elections and add that only appointed election officials can perform tasks to conduct elections.

With over 99% of the vote reported by Wednesday morning, 54.4% of voters approved the first question and 58.6% had approved the second. A majority of Wisconsin voters must vote in favor of a constitutional amendment in order for it to go into effect.

Because a majority of voters selected "yes," clerks will no longer be able to apply for, accept or use private donations and grants, and the state Constitution will include that only election officials designated by law can perform tasks to conduct elections.

An analysis from the Legislature's nonpartisan attorneys found that state law already says only appointed election officials can conduct elections, but doesn't say what activities count as conducting an election. Liberal groups that opposed the referendum worried the lack of clarity could lead to lawsuits.

Election Day live updates l Statewide election results l Local election results

The outcome of the two referendums falls in line with a trend in Wisconsin — voters typically ratify them. Out of the 200 times lawmakers have proposed changes to the state Constitution since 1854, voters have only rejected the changes about 50 times, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

Republicans pitched the two questions to voters because Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill that would have barred local governments from taking outside funding for elections, though the state could have accepted and distributed grants based on population. Unlike bills, constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed.

Referendums stem from Republicans' scrutiny of 'Zuckerbucks'

The two referendum questions on the April 2 ballot came from a proposal authored by Republicans who continue to scrutinize millions of dollars in grants that helped Wisconsin clerks meet unexpected costs during the pandemic. Clerks used the money for personal protective equipment and drop boxes for absentee ballots, for example.

The grants — which were funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife and distributed by the Center for Tech and Civic Life — went to more than 200 communities in Wisconsin, including Republican areas. But the bulk of the money went toward the state's five largest cities, which Republicans said drummed up turnout.

"Wisconsin has spoken and the message is clear: elections belong to voters, not out-of-state billionaires. Thanks to the efforts by the Republican Party of Wisconsin and grassroots organizing, Wisconsinites have turned the page on Zuckerbucks and secured our elections from dark money donors," Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Brian Schimming said in a statement Tuesday night.

Clerks and Democrats have pointed out that elections are not adequately funded at the state, local and federal level. Election officials have said that seeking grants amid budget constraints does not mean they would cede control of administering elections. The grants were also upheld in court multiple times.

"Rather than work to make sure our clerks have the resources they need to run elections, Republicans are pushing a nonsense amendment to satisfy (former President) Donald Trump," Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman Ben Wikler previously said in a statement about the two referendum questions.

More:Wisconsin's April 2 referendum questions and the 'Zuckerbucks' debate, explained

The second question stemmed from Republicans' concerns about a consultant who advised Green Bay on how to run the election more smoothly. A report from the city's attorney found he did not make final decisions and instead provided insight on matters like training and early voting.

< Back to 68k.news US front page