Missourians are proud of their Midwestern roots. We’re stubborn and independent in the best ways whether we’re arguing over who plays better baseball or where in the state you can find the best barbeque.
That’s why Missourians should be particularly concerned by new research showing the deep, invasive influence outside money had on our elections in 2020.
New research, utilizing extensive records requests and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documentation, shows how one billionaire from California had more influence on Missouri elections than any voter across the Show-Me State itself.
Here are some of the top findings…
- Missouri election offices received millions from Mark Zuckerberg. In 2020, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife funneled millions of dollars into our state through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). In total, CTCL granted 2,500 election jurisdictions across the country a total of $400 million in “COVID-19 response grants.” Missouri received $9 million.
- As in states like Pennsylvania and Florida, grant dollars favored Democrat-held election jurisdictions. All counties that Biden won received Zuckerbucks, but fewer than half of Trump-carried counties received grants. The average grant for Democrat-held counties was $1.3 million, whereas the average for Republican-held jurisdictions was a fraction of that—$107,000. The average grant amount per registered voter in blue counties was more than 50 percent higher than that of Trump-carried counties.
- In counties that received Zuckerbucks, voter turnouts increased. Margins of victories shrank dramatically between parties compared to past trends in counties that received grants. In the hotly contested 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Ann Wagner received fewer votes in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties than she did in 2016—meanwhile, her opponent saw a surge in votes of 32 percent. In nearby Jefferson County—which did not receive Zuckerbucks—her margin of victory over her opponent was comparable to 2016, making the 32 percent surge a regional anomaly.
- Most of the money wasn’t even spent on personal protective equipment (PPE). CTCL claimed these grants were “COVID-19 response grants” to help election jurisdictions purchase PPE to help keep voters safe while voting during the pandemic. But less than five percent of the funds were spent on PPE. Instead, counties spent a quarter of a million dollars on “non-partisan voter education” and get-out-the-vote efforts, along with non-pandemic related voting equipment.
- Not all of the money unspent after the election was returned. Nearly 20 percent of the funds weren’t used during the election. For certain counties with unspent balances, CTCL provided an extension that did not require them to report on how the funds were spent. These counties spent $1.3 million in the extension period, months after the election, and only 10 percent of the remaining extension balances were returned.
Securing Elections Should Take Top Priority
Now is the time for Missouri to take the transparency and security of our elections seriously. If we want Missourians to trust the democratic process and participate in future elections, they need to know that the financial muscle of a billionaire residing nearly 2,000 miles away doesn’t have more influence in elections than a voter’s own ballot.