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The last Florida county to hold onto Zuckerberg money for elections has returned it

Palm Beach County returned its remaining CTCL funds, over $612,000, earlier this month.

Updated: August 25, 2021 - 10:32pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

After receiving an election grant from the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), Florida's Palm Beach County has returned its unspent funds following enactment of a state election integrity bill and a lawsuit from the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF).

CTCL made grants to municipalities to administer elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, although it heavily influenced how the elections ran and awarded funds disproportionately to Democrat-run cities.

In May, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill preventing the use of private funds for the administration of elections, banned mass mailing of ballots and ballot harvesting, and tightened voter identification requirements.

"Florida took action this legislative session to increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections," DeSantis said at the time. "Floridians can rest assured that our state will remain a leader in ballot integrity. Elections should be free and fair, and these changes will ensure this continues to be the case in the Sunshine State."

Alachua County and Leon County returned their unspent CTCL grant money shortly after the election integrity law was enacted, The Epoch Times reported. But it wasn't until early August that Palm Beach County decided to return their leftover funds, after being sued by the PILF, which describes itself as "the nation's only public interest law firm dedicated wholly to election integrity."

"The return of this money to the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) is a victory for election integrity," PILF President J. Christian Adams said.

"Zuckbucks were the biggest factor, juicing blue areas in 2020," he added. "A private citizen should not be allowed to influence how our elections are run. At the Public Interest Legal Foundation, we are proud to have played a role in ensuring that this money will not be spent to influence the Florida elections in 2022."

Palm Beach County officials initially ignored PILF's letters to them regarding the CTCL money, PILF spokesperson Lauren Bowman told The Epoch Times. Then PILF sued the Florida county, but Palm Beach claimed that the law did not require them to return the funds.

The law firm countered that the county benefited from the leftover grant money since it was accruing bank interest, Bowman said. The county changed its position and returned the remaining $612,089.24 to CTCL, according to an Aug. 5 email from Palm Beach County to PILF obtained by The Epoch Times.

"Elections are meant to be run by tax dollars," Bowman said. "They're not supposed to be influenced by billionaires in Silicon Valley."

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