Follow Us

Zuckerberg money used to pay election judges, grow vote in Democrat stronghold, memos reveal

Grant application turned over under federal court order quadruples polling places from primary, promises as many as 800,000 votes from city in November. Only 675,000 voted in 2016.

Published: October 19, 2020 7:56pm

Updated: October 20, 2020 11:38am

Documents produced by the city of Philadelphia under a federal court order show millions of dollars in nonprofit grant money donated by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is being used to quadruple the number of voting places and massively grow the number of ballots cast in the Democratic stronghold on Nov. 3.

The memos were turned over in a federal lawsuit filed by the conservative Thomas More Society, and they detail how city election officials filed a grant request in August to the Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) by promising to open 800 polling places and grow voting to as many as 800,000 ballots cast in the general election.

The number of promised polling places is more than four times the 190 polling places opened during the city's pandemic-affected primary earlier this year, and the promised turnout is estimated to be as many as 120,000 voters larger than the 2016 presidential election, which drew about 680,000 voters. About 80% of the vote went to Democrats in 2016 in the city.

"The Office of the City Commissioners understands CTCL's interest in maximizing the number of polling locations and will work to identify over 800 locations," states the city application seeking $10 million for the fall election.

Zuckerberg announced several weeks ago he has donated $250 million to CTCL to help local governments across the country hold elections this fall in the midst of the pandemic. He has since augmented that amount with another $100 million in recent days.

But the Thomas More Society and its lead counsel Phill Kline have filed lawsuits against several of the jurisdictions receiving CTCL grants, arguing the money is wrongly privatizing an election function that should be handled entirely by government and that the grants are targeting mostly Democratic strongholds, raising questions of election interference.

Kline, director of Thomas More's Amistad Society Project, told Just the News that of the top 20 CTCL grants, amounting to $63 million, only one for $289,000 has gone to a county Trump won in 2016.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania recently ordered Philadelphia officials to produce records on how it applied for and won its $10 million grant, and the first records produced indicate the city is using the Zuckerberg money to compensate poll workers with "hazard pay," including election judges who decide ballot integrity issues.

More than $5 million of the grant is allowing the city to buy equipment to process increased mail-in and absentee ballots due to COVID-19, while $3.6 million is being used to open extra "satellite election offices" for early voting and in-person voting on Election Day.

"A voter can go to any satellite office and register to vote, if needed, request a mail-in ballot in-person, receive it, vote, and return it all at the same location," the grant application explained. The early voting efforts also include drop boxes, because "installing at least 15 secure, 24-hour drop boxes at each early vote location will help ensure that voters have some opportunity to return their ballots if it may be too late to send via" mail, the application added.

In justifying one item for which funds were sought, the grant application stated that "a full, 5-member Election Board (Judge of Elections, two Inspectors of  Election, one Clerk, and one Machine Inspector) will require recruiting, training, and assigning up to 8,515 poll workers (1,703 divisions x 5 Election Board members)."

The Philadelphia records are the first released under the lawsuits to detail how juridictions are spending the money and the specific promises they are making to secure the grants.

When CTCL approved the grant and wired the money it made clear it had the right to rescind monies if the goals fell short.

"CTCL may discontinue, withhold part of, or request the return of all or part of any unspent Grant funds if it determines, that any of the above conditions have not been met," the approval letter states.

A spokesperson for CTCL and the city of Philadelphia did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday evening concerning the documents.

Kline told Just the News the newly released documents confirm his group's suspicions that Zuckerberg's funding is designed more to improve Democrat turnout in a key battleground state like Pennsylvania than to address the COVID-19 crisis.

"This privatization of elections undermines the integrity of the election by using government to play favorites," he said. "Government targeting a demographic to increase turnout is the opposite side of the same coin as government targeting a demographic to suppress the vote." 

"Moreover, this is occurring as blue state governors have made it harder to vote with new COVID restrictions on in-person voting," he added.

Just the News Spotlight