The group that distributed most of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial election grants in 2020 has designated at least two Utah counties as part of a new effort, despite a state ban on private money funding election operations.
The two local juridictions are Cache County, with a population of 137,00, and Weber County, population 267,000.
The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a group launched by the Center for Tech and Civic Life and other left-leaning organizations, designated the Utah counties as participants in its plans for 2024.
In 2022, the Utah Legislature passed and Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, signed into law SB 219. The measure says simply: “This bill prohibits an election officer from soliciting, accepting, or using funds donated for an election by a person other than a government entity.”
The law took effect last May.
Although the Center for Tech and Civic Life is leading the election alliance’s effort, partner organizations are funded by the left-wing, “dark money” groups Arabella Advisors and the Democracy Fund.
The Utah law likely would prohibit any election-related grants, Cache County Deputy Clerk Bryson Behm told The Daily Signal.
“I would expect that would exclude us from that and we are not searching for any grants,” Behm said in a phone interview. “This is just a networking opportunity to connect with other election officials about the best ways to secure elections.”
Behm said he learned from a conversation with Weber County officials that Weber County also was designated by the alliance as a “Center for Election Excellence.”
The Weber County elections office did not immediately respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch is a member of the advisory committee for the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which launched the election alliance.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, a Republican, did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Daily Signal on the matter.
The Alliance for Election Excellence’s membership agreement for participating jurisdictions says: “To accomplish these goals, the Alliance will develop and establish a nonpartisan, nationwide certification program so that jurisdictions meeting certain performance standards may hold themselves out as Centers for [Election] Excellence.”
The membership agreement is among documents obtained through public records requests by two conservative groups, the Washington, D.C.-based Honest Elections Project and the North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation. The two organizations issued a joint report on the Alliance for Election Excellence earlier this month.
For juridictions that participate, the fee is $1,600 for basic membership in the alliance and $4,800 for premium membership. In some cases, the alliance says, it waives membership fees through “scholarships.”
“They [the Alliance for Election Excellence] want to expand from these 10 jurisdictions with an influence campaign and gain access to the data and inner workings of election offices,” Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.
“Even if a place can’t accept the scholarships under the Zuckerbuck bans, membership is as low as $1,600 to have access to these resources,” Snead said. “They are playing the long game.”
The Center for Tech and Civic Life, which handles press questions for the Alliance for Election Excellence, did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment for this report.
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