One of the defining features of America’s unique constitutional republic is federalism, which distributes power among the states, and in doing so effectively creates 50 separate laboratories of democracy. Innovative or controversial ideas can be instituted by individual states, and if found to be efficacious, can then be adopted elsewhere. The initiative of a single state can activate the so-called permission concept for like-minded states, as we have witnessed with the school choice movement. Much like one person at a table in a restaurant ordering a pre-dinner cocktail, thus “permitting” others who seek safety in numbers to follow suit, gun-shy states can draft off their neighbors’ risk and subsequent experience.
In such a system of governance, what might seem like a minor legislative achievement in a far-off state has the capacity to generate untold political momentum. Even as its significance is overlooked or brushed off in real-time, a mustard seed of an idea can grow into a mighty oak. In that spirit, it may have escaped your notice that the North Carolina Senate recently approved legislation to ban private funding for state and county election boards. The measure will become law unless Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoes it by December 14.
Why does this move have the real potential to serve as a canary in the coalmine, a portent of doom for Democrats already reeling from the specter of blowout losses in next year’s midterms? It all goes back to the stunning success of the Democrats’ strategy to effectively privatize voter registration in the crucial swing states captured by Joe Biden in 2020.
The plan is outlined in detail by the incomparable Mollie Hemingway in her engrossing account of the 2020 election, “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections.” In 2018, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, established by the Facebook founder and his wife Priscilla, donated a staggering $350 million to a little-known organization known as the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), whose budget at the time was just over one million dollars. CTCL in turn donated what came to be known as “Zuck Bucks” to county election boards in vital battleground states, who in turn brought in hired guns who employed every trick in the book to expand voter registration. A prominent Washington newspaper with deep ties to the left described them as “the Democratic Party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry.”
While CTCL describes itself as “nonpartisan,” Hemingway lays out an unmistakable pattern in its charity. In Georgia, where Trump won by more than five points in 2016 and lost by .3% in 2020, counties funded by Zuck Bucks to the tune of $31 million collectively moved in the Democratic direction by over two points, while counties receiving no such funding showed virtually no movement. In Pennsylvania, where the outcome was almost as tight as Georgia, Biden won eight of the ten counties receiving the highest funding from CTCL – and together, those eight received more than $21 million, 95% of the organization’s grants across the Keystone State.
Putting the program into context at an even more granular level, Philadelphia, the most heavily funded county captured by Biden, received $6.32 per capita of this private funding, while the most provided to any Pennsylvania county won by Trump was $1.12. Across the eight states funded by CTCL, Biden counties were over 350% more likely to be funded by CTCL than Trump counties and received 480% more funding.
While Biden’s margin of victory in the 2020 popular vote was reported as more than seven million, the bulk of that difference was from two coastal behemoths, New York and California, which have voted Democratic for decades. To understand how close the election really was, consider that, as first reported by NPR of all places, a mere 44,000 more votes recorded for Trump in Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin would have created a tie in the Electoral College.
Now you will understand why this move by North Carolina to bar private funding to state and county election boards could be crucial if it does indeed lead other contested states with GOP-run legislatures and/or governors to follow suit. In 2020, this Zuckerberg initiative may have swung the outcome of the election. It may take nothing less than states lining up behind North Carolina with similar prohibitions to prevent the same thing from happening in 2024 and beyond.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.
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