LOVELL: The Zuck Buck stops here

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2016, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, smile as they prepare for a speech in San Francisco. Supervisors in San Francisco are voting on a nonbinding resolution Tuesday, Dec. 15 to condemn the naming of the city's public hospital for Zuckerberg and his wife in 2015 after the couple gave $75 million toward the building of a new acute and trauma center. The resolution does not have the force of law and would not require the hospital to do anything if approved. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

A recent poll by Morning Consult revealed that one-third of the American population believes our election process is unfair. Close examination of our state and federal institutions has revealed deep flaws in these systems of government. When the band-aid was ripped off our election process, we observed all manner of misadventure. 

In 2018, Stacy Abrams ran a brilliant campaign for governor of Georgia.  Much was written about her success in motivating and changing the way Georgia votes. Her great knowledge of grassroots politics, learned at the knee of her family of ministers, combined with her extensive education and experience has forever changed the way campaigns are managed. Ms. Abrams lost that election by 50,000 votes, but she continues to declare herself the winner. 

Ms. Abrams must believe that the election was unfair. Seems to be a trend.

In 2020, an unprecedented flood of private donations was made directly to state and county boards of elections targeting key counties in battleground states. This powerful tool of influence had never been used before.

The largest source of those private donations, $400 million, was given by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, routed through their 501(c)(3) political action committees, Center for Tech and Civic Life and the Center for Election Innovation and Research. 

Zuck Bucks” as colloquially called today. 

Under the cover of COVID-19, 2,500 counties in 47 states accepted direct, private funding to ensure “safe and reliable” voting during the pandemic.  The attempt to re-engineer our election process under the righteous guise of public safety is really an effort to preempt an outcome. 

The Wall Street Journal reported “33 counties in North Carolina plus the State Board of Elections received a combined total of $7.5 million.” Roughly $6.1 million was paid to poll workers and voter information drives, not personal protective equipment as advertised. 

However, federal law states “charitable dollars cannot have the intent or effect of influencing a partisan election,” explained Cleta Mitchell, Senior Legal Fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute. Publicly available documents now reveal that in key states, only 1%-3% of these funds were used for health-related expenses. The investment Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife made paid well. “Nearly three-quarters of the funding went to jurisdictions that Pres. Biden won.” 

The problem is not partisan. Lots of people have lots of money to handicap an election if they wish. This gambit has not happened in previous elections but will live on in North Carolina because Gov. Cooper vetoed the Republican bill to ban it last November. This law will remain on the books in North Carolina until it is amended or overturned. 

Voters expect to engage in a fair election process. Private citizens may make direct donations to a candidate, a party or an advocacy group within certain government restrictions. When private funds invade the public board of elections system for whatever reason du jour, it has the power to corrupt. 

Consider who decides where the money will go, who will benefit, who will not.  Glenda Clendenin, former Director of Elections for Moore County, refused to accept a $10,000 private donation in the fall of 2020.  “Other counties accepted these funds but I could not be sure where the money came from. Our board would not even accept a free drink or dinner.” 

The contribution made by the Zuckerberg foundation favored blue states over red, in one instance by a 5-to-1 margin. This practice gets murky because there is no mechanism for accountability. Our system was not designed to accept “charitable contributions” to public government systems. 

As the mid-term election cycle approaches, many challenges to our system are already in play.  Voter ID in NC is caught up in an appeal by the NAACP. The primaries are delayed due to redistricting challenges, causing pain to the candidates ready to hit the trail. State and federal legislators are creating wacky new ways to make it “easier” to vote, layering more bad laws on top of current questionable practices in the name of transparency. 

The integrity of a single vote demonstrates the power and equality of each American citizen.

Zuck Bucks must not be allowed to diminish this valuable commodity.