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Conservative groups seek to block Facebook election grants in four swing states: report

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Conservative groups on Thursday filed lawsuits in four key swing states to prevent private grants from reaching election administrators, arguing that the money will disproportionately assist Democrats running for office, The New York Times reported

The most notable election grants came from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, who announced they had donated $300 million earlier this month to the Center for Tech and Civic Life and the Center for Election Innovation and Research to help promote fair and secure elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, told the Times that about half of U.S. states have already applied to receive some of the $50 million given to the group. 

On Thursday, a conservative nonprofit legal organization, the Thomas More Society, said it had filed lawsuits with federal courts in four battleground states: Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The lawsuits claim that the private election grants awarded to communities bypassed state approval, therefore violating federal election laws. 

Erick G. Kaardal, an attorney with ties to the Thomas More Society, argued in an interview with the Times that the grants could “undermine, over time, the way we view elections,” adding that there could be a scenario in which “one group of billionaires will own this city, and one group of billionaires will own that city.”

Kaardal had joined a group of fellow lawyers in filing a complaint against grants received by the Wisconsin Elections Commission 10 days after Zuckerberg’s announcement. The elections commission dismissed the complaint last week, arguing that one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit “is not a resident of any of the municipalities referenced in the complaint and therefore he is not served by any of the officials that have [been] named.” 

Christine Reuther, the Delaware County, Penn., councilwoman who wrote her county’s grant proposal, told the Times that the money received helped with organizing poll worker training and the procurement of drop boxes. 

“I have no idea why it is a bad thing, let alone unconstitutional, for Delaware County to accept a grant to improve safe and secure access to the polls for all of its registered voters,” Reuther said. 

The Center for Tech and Civic Life issued a statement in response to Thursday’s lawsuits, calling the legal actions “a baseless challenge.” In the statement, the group called itself a “non-partisan organization backed by Democrats, Republicans, and nonpartisan officials.” 

According to political polling group FiveThirtyEight, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden currently leads in all four states where the Thomas More Society filed lawsuits, with the biggest gap in Minnesota where Biden has a 9 percentage point advantage over President Trump.

Tags 2020 battleground states 2020 election Donald Trump election laws Facebook Joe Biden Mark Zuckerberg Michigan Minnesota Pennsylvania The Center for Tech and Civic Life Thomas More Society Wisconsin

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