During the 2020 election, more than a quarter of a billion dollars in private, special interest money infiltrated election offices across the U.S. masquerading as “COVID-19 response grants.” These grants were touted as resources for purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) and dealing with the challenges of running an election under pandemic restrictions.
Much of the grant funds came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a non-profit organization. Millions of out-of-state, private dollars went to election districts across the country, and Virginia wasn’t immune.
Private, out-of-state money infiltrated Virginia’s public elections
More than $3.9 million from private donors were spent to run elections in Virginia in 2020. Thirty-eight counties in the Commonwealth received these grant dollars, yet less than one percent of the funds were used for PPE.
- A significant number of counties that received the private money spent it on “staff expenses.”
- The largest spending categories by counties were “vote-by-mail/absentee voting” and “election administration equipment.”
- One county spent their private “grant” money on new furniture and a copier.
It’s important to note that the funds were not distributed evenly across the state. Rather, select congressional districts received more than others—specifically, more than $3 million of the private funds were spent in just six of Virginia’s 38 counties.
Virginians want elections to be more secure and transparent. Allowing private, out-of-state organizations, corporations, and special interest groups disenfranchises Virginia voters and puts the integrity of Virginia’s elections in jeopardy.
The buck stops here
The 2022 elections are around the corner and Virginia has an opportunity to implement commonsense reform to ban private funding of government offices that are expected to operate in a non-partisan way. It’s simply good government to ensure that public elections are not receiving undue influence and funding from private, out-of-state entities. Virginia should act now to keep their elections safe from outside influence this coming November and beyond.