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GOP secretaries of state, legislators fight against ‘Bidenbucks,’ federalization of GOTV efforts

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner is trying to “let the [Biden] administration know we do not intend to follow their illegal directives.”

Published: April 24, 2024 11:06pm

Republican secretaries of state and state legislators are pushing back against “Bidenbucks,” what call the federalization of voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts, claiming that the executive order is unlawful.

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson, along with Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature, are fighting President Biden’s Executive Order 14019 from March 2021, which turns federal agencies into "Get Out The Vote" (GOTV) centers across all states.

The executive order is often referred to by critics as “Bidenbucks,” which alludes to "Zuckerbucks," the approximately $400 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg widely alleged to have been funneled through left-leaning nonprofits to turn out the Democratic vote in the 2020 presidential election.

According to the executive order, “The head of each agency shall evaluate ways in which the agency can, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, promote voter registration and voter participation,” including "soliciting and facilitating approved, nonpartisan third-party organizations and State officials to provide voter registration services on agency premises.”

Similar to “Bidenbucks,” “Zuckerbucks" came to notice when the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) poured about $350 million into local elections offices managing the 2020 election, with most of the funds donated to the nonprofit by Zuckerberg. The nonprofit has claimed its 2020 election grants — colloquially known as "Zuckerbucks" — were allocated without partisan preference to make voting safer amid the pandemic.

However, a House Republican investigation found that less than 1% of the funds were spent on personal protective equipment. Most of the funds were focused on get-out-the-vote efforts and registrations.

Following controversy surrounding the disproportionate private funding funneled to Democratic jurisdictions and claims the imbalance helped sway the 2020 election in Biden's favor, 28 states have either restricted or banned the use of private money to fund elections, while 12 counties have also restricted or banned the funds, according to the Capital Research Center.

According to information provided to The Daily Signal from the Indian Health Service (IHS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, organizations that have worked with IHS for voter registration are the American Civil Liberties Union, Demos, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Native American Rights Fund.

The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project obtained documents showing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture worked with Demos, a left-wing public policy advocacy group, for voter registration purposes.

Biden’s executive order instructs heads of federal agencies “to provide recommendations to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, on strategies to expand the Federal Government’s policy of granting employees time off to vote in Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial elections.” However, those recommendations have not been made public.

Warner told The Federalist last week that he is trying to “let the [Biden] administration know we do not intend to follow their illegal directives.”

He explained that his state is “not going to accept these registrations” that result from the executive order, citing Article I Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, where state legislatures are given the authority to prescribe the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives.”

Warner added that duplicate registrations could result from federal agencies registering people to vote, which would create more issues that county clerks have the responsibility to resolve.

“Somebody might already be registered and then they go in for [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] or another federal assistance program and they get registered again,” Warner said. “Now you have a double registration, and the clerks have to take time to go and sort it out.” 

He also noted, “It sounds like it’s a good thing. I mean, who would be against registering voters to vote? But if it comes in outside the law, well that’s what America should be addressing now. What do you do with a ballot that comes from outside the law?”

Meanwhile, Watson sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland last month, seeking information regarding the scope of how the executive order is being implemented in Mississippi while noting his concerns about its legality.

Watson also submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of Justice for communications between the DOJ and detention facilities in Mississippi.

The secretary of state requested the information because Biden’s executive order “instructs the U.S. Attorney General to establish procedures for educating felons on how to register to vote, facilitate voter registration, assist vote by mail, and require the U.S. Marshals Service to modify intergovernmental agreements and jail contracts with the aforementioned requirements,” Watson wrote in an op-ed earlier this month.

“These efforts are not only an intrusion into state matters but are a misuse of federal revenue to register potentially ineligible felons and/or illegal immigrants,” he added.

Watson was informed that his FOIA request “was overly broad,” he noted. After asking a White House official about the agencies’ plans to follow the executive order, Watson was told that Biden's plans will not be made public.

Warner, Watson, and 13 other Republican secretaries of state wrote a letter to Biden in August 2022 regarding unconstitutionality of the executive order.

“Executive Order 14019 was issued without Constitutional authority nor Congressional approval,” the letter reads. “Executive Order 14019 calls for federal agencies to develop plans that duplicate voter registration efforts conducted at the state level and ignores codified procedures and programs in our state constitutions and laws.”

Warner told The Federalist that he is contacting the secretaries of state who signed the letter about considering joining an amicus brief in an ongoing lawsuit against “Bidenbucks.”

The federal lawsuit was brought by 27 legislators of the Pennsylvania General Assembly against both the Biden administration and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D), claiming that the executive order is both unlawful according to the commonwealth’s law and unconstitutional.

A U.S. district court judge dismissed the lawsuit last month for lack of standing, and the legislators are appealing it to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

A separate FOIA lawsuit was filed by the Foundation for Government Accountability in April 2022, after the organization didn’t receive documents it requested regarding the executive order.

Last August, a U.S. district court judge ordered the DOJ to provide documents to the court to determine whether the records were justifiably withheld. The case is still ongoing.

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