Voters in battleground states filed four federal lawsuits on Thursday, seeking to bar city governments from using funds donated by Zuckerberg toward voting initiatives in Democrat strongholds.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently donated $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civil Life (CTCL), a non-profit that claims to be nonpartisan, despite strong ties with progressive organizations. In the announcement of the donation, the CTCL stated it would “regrant” the funds to city governments in an effort to support them with election processes during COVID-19 concerns.

In this effort to get out the vote, the CTCL has donated nearly $26 million to 12 different cities in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Each state swung in Trump’s favor in the 2016 election, but each city receiving CTCL and Zuckerberg’s funds voted overwhelmingly in favor of Hillary Clinton.

These grants raise concerns about election integrity and the involvement of private parties in election processes.

Named defendants include all 12 cities that have received grants from the CTCL:

-Wisconsin: Green Bay City, Kenosha City, Madison City, Milwaukee City, and Racine City

-Pennsylvania: Philadelphia City, Delaware County

-Michigan: Wayne County (Detroit), Flint City, East Lansing, Lansing

-Minnesota: Minneapolis City

The lawsuits argue that the use of these funds by city governments “favor(s) a certain class of voters over another” precisely because the funds are being sent exclusively to those jurisdictions which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Combined, all 12 cities cast 75.86% of their votes toward Clinton.

Further, they argue that city use of these funds violates the Help America Vote Act, a federal law that requires state legislative approval before local governments use funds donated by private parties for election purposes.

“Government cannot be in the business of playing favorites in these elections,” said Phill Kline, 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.”

The Thomas More Society is representing the voters of all four federal lawsuits.

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

Concerns about the integrity of the election are especially heightened since the grants are being used in mail-in voting efforts, a method that has been highly criticized by the political right.

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

The plaintiffs to all four lawsuits include the Minnesota Voters Alliance, Michigan’s Election Integrity Fund, Pennsylvania state legislators and congressional candidates, and the Wisconsin Voters Alliance.

Caitlin Bassett

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