Lincoln County addresses election integrity
County takes action to prevent election interference, puts advisory referendum on Nov. ballot
TINA L. SCOTT
At their July 19, 2022, Board of Supervisors meeting, Lincoln County Supervisors took two steps to address election integrity issues. First, the Board passed a resolution prohibiting the accepting of donations or grants from “any person or nongovernmental entity for the purpose of elections administration, including but not limited to, collection of ballots or voter registration.”
The resolution further stated “Election officials are prohibited from soliciting or using private funds, technology, or services from special interest groups, people, or private entities for the purpose of administering elections and referendums.”
The purpose of the resolution, which passed unanimously at the July 6, 2022, Administrative & Legislative Committee meeting and was recommended to the greater Board at the July 19 meeting, was stated simply: “Voters need to be able to trust their elected officials are acting in a non-partisan capacity and not under the influence of private resources that may impact how an election is administered.”
A motion to adopt the resolution as Lincoln County Ordinance 2022-07-723 was carried by a voice vote.
County to add “Private funding of election administration” advisory referendum question to Nov. ballot
Second, in a separate action, the Board considered Resolution 2022-7-24 for an advisory referendum regarding private funding of election administration and voted 15-4 (Elizabeth McCrank, Greta Rusch, Brian Hafeman, and Julie Allen voted against the resolution) to place the following advisory referendum question on the Nov. 8, 2022, General Election ballot:
“Should the State of Wisconsin prohibit election officials from soliciting or using private funds, technology, or services from special interest groups, people, or other private entities for the purpose of administering elections and referendums? Yes or No.”
The language in the resolution supporting the referendum question, as recommended and unanimously passed by the Administrative & Legislative Committee during their July 6, 2022, meeting, included the following preambles:
“WHEREAS, During Wisconsin’s 2020 General Election a private, non-profit entity, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, funded in part by Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, furnished approximately $8.5 million to five Wisconsin cities and an additional $1.6 million to over 200 other Wisconsin municipalities.
“WHEREAS, By accepting these grants municipalities agreed to certain conditions related to election administration which directly impacted the procedures adopted by municipalities who were recipients of the grant funding while other municipalities that did not receive the grants did not implement the same measures.
“WHEREAS, By accepting these grants municipalities granted special access to voter data to agents of the special interest group, including the ability to manage municipal staff and special access to ballots.
“WHEREAS, Voters need to be able to trust that their local election officials are acting in a non-partisan capacity and are not under the influence of private resources that might impact how an election is administered.
“WHEREAS, The ability to accept private funds for election administration can be used by any political party or special interest group to improperly influence the outcome of elections.
“WHEREAS, The ability of a privately-funded special interest to participate in an election in this manner allows for circumvention of campaign finance laws and creates the appearance of unfairness in election administration.
“WHEREAS, In order to have a well-functioning election, voters need to have trust in the fairness of the process.
“NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors insists upon the prohibition of the use of private donations from special interest groups, people, or other private entities by government for the purposes of election administration.”