Complaint asks that Wisconsin cities be barred from using $6 million from left-leaning voting group

Filing claims that using private funds for election activities violates state law

Updated: September 12, 2020 - 3:15pm

An activist group in Wisconsin this week filed a complaint with the state election commission asking it to bar election officials in several cities from using private funds to help boost voter turnout. 

The Center for Tech and Civic Life—identified by InfluenceWatch as a "center-left election reform advocacy group"—has poured $6.3 million into multiple Wisconsin cities including Kenosha and Green Bay to boost the election infrastructure of each municipality. 

Yet a complaint filed by the Wisconsin Voters Alliance argues that the use of that money violates state law; the group is asking the Wisconsin Elections Commission to forbid the cities from utilizing the funds. 

The filing argues that the funds are preempted by state law prohibiting election officials from accepting "anything of value" to induce voters to go to, or refrain from going to, the polls. 

The use of the funds "also violates the U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 4 which authorizes only the state legislature to determine the time, place and manner of elections for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives," the complaint adds. 

In a press release announcing the filing, Phill Kline—the director of the Amistad Project at the Thomas More Society which is representing the complainants—argued that the funding is "clearly designed to provide a boost in registered voters, limited only to traditional leftist strongholds, in a critical swing state that is likely to determine the outcome of the presidential election on November 3, 2020." The recipient cities all voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, though the state ultimately went for Trump that year by less than 1%.

"Allowing private monies to control state spending on voter turnout," Kline argued in the press release, "is an invitation to the state to engage in partisan politics in the operation of elections that represents a present danger that favors one class of voters at the expense of others."

The Center for Tech and Civic Life announced earlier this month that it had received a $250 million donation from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to increase voter turnout ahead of the 2020 election. The CTCL has particularly focused on mail-in voting, which is expected to be highly elevated this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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