Schwarzenegger Institute dropped almost $190K into NC 2020 elections

Two counties rejected funds that had a combined total of $72,390

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Founder of the "Austrian World Summit" talks on stage about his dreams and actions to fight the climate crisis in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, July 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

RALEIGH — Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t the only entity dropping cash into state elections during 2020.

Through the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to over 30 counties in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. North Carolina was also on the list.

Over $189,014 in grant funds were offered to 10 N.C. counties, but the total could be higher. Hertford County’s total grant allocation is unknown because the county’s board of elections did not respond to multiple requests for information.

Two counties, Jackson and Surry, rejected Schwarzenegger’s offer. The combined worth of the funds to those two counties totaled around $72,390.

Considering the Jackson and Surry rejections and Hertford’s unknown total, the amount accepted by counties in the state comes to $116,624.

There were 33 total grants made nationwide, including to the 10 counties in North Carolina.

The details of each grant, including the dollar amount, for each county in North Carolina are as follows:

  1. Graham County, North Carolina — $10,000
    Funding to support additional poll workers
  2. Greene County, North Carolina — $25,058
    Funding for one new physical polling place, to support poll workers, and to hire 35 new election day and one-stop workers
  3. Haywood County, North Carolina — $8,680
    Funding to support 11 new part-time poll workers to help at polls and with absentee ballot processing
  4. Hertford County, North Carolina — UKNOWN
    Funding to support polling sites and PPE at polling sites
  5. Jackson County, North Carolina — $9,360 (Rejected)
    Funding to support one-stop and election day poll workers and six new absentee by-mail return centers
  6. McDowell County, North Carolina — $10,000
    Funding to support additional poll workers
  7. Onslow County, North Carolina — $40,000
    Funding for new poll workers, to support the opening of one new polling place, and PPE for poll workers
  8. Swain County, North Carolina — $5,061
    Funding to support hiring more poll workers to increase polling access
  9. Surry County, North Carolina — $63,030 (Rejected)
    Funding to support the hiring of one-stop and Election Day poll workers in order to operate polling sites
  10. Warren County, North Carolina — $17,824
    Funding to support hiring one-stop and Election Day poll workers in order to operate polling sites

Schwarzenegger’s group announced the grants to “reopen polling centers” in various states on Sept. 23, 2020, on Twitter and also on the institute’s website.

Over the course of 2021, at least seven states have passed and enacted laws banning money from private groups related to elections. In total to date, around 18 statehouses filed election reform bills, some of which included restrictions on outside money used for the administration of elections.

North Carolina’s version of such a bill is Senate Bill 725, Prohibit Private Money in Elections Admin.

The bill prohibits the State Board of Elections, county boards of elections, and county commissioners from accepting private monetary donations to conduct elections or to employ individuals for election purposes on a temporary basis.

Senate Bill 725 has not seen activity since June 21 and currently sits in the House Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee.

About A.P. Dillon 531 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_