Ban on outside ‘Zuckerbucks’ election funding clears Georgia House

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Bill prohibits nonprofit donations to county election offices

The Georgia House voted late Monday to prohibit donations to county election offices, a Republican response to outside money that flowed primarily to Democratic areas.

The bill passed the state House along party lines 100-69, and it will head to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature if the state Senate agrees before the General Assembly adjourns for the year Wednesday. The Senate previously passed a similar version of the measure.

Limiting nonprofit donations became a priority among Republicans and conservative groups after DeKalb County received a $2 million grant in January from the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a project of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which was funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The money was designated for the county election office’s operating budget and office facility upgrades, but skeptics of “Zuckerbucks” say funding from nonprofits could influence the outcome of elections. No statewide elections are scheduled this year.

“Election grants are not the problem. There’s simply no evidence of it,” said state Rep. Saira Draper, a Democrat from Atlanta. “The real problem is cutting off lifelines to our chronically underfunded elections offices.”

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

The Center for Tech and Civic Life previously gave $45 million to Georgia counties in the 2020 election year. Most of the money went to Democratic-leaning counties with big cities, but several Republican areas also received grants.

Republican supporters of the bill said elections should be funded only by public taxpayer money.

“We should not be seeing partisan outside interests funneling money into counties for one party or another,” said state Rep. Houston Gaines, a Republican from Athens. “It’s common sense to make sure we’re banning outside money in our public elections.”

Defenders of nonprofit donations say they were essential for election operations since they started during the coronavirus pandemic.

The money paid for items including equipment to process mail ballots, protective gear for election workers, elections staffing, absentee ballot postage costs and voter outreach.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

The voting law the General Assembly passed two years ago limited nonprofit contributions but didn’t shut them off entirely. The law, Senate Bill 202, prohibited direct contributions to county election offices while still allowing county governments to solicit grants on their behalf.

This year’s legislation would close that loophole. If the bill becomes law, contributions would still be allowed to the state government, which could then distribute funding among counties.

Before the House vote, the Rules Committee amended the bill so that it’s no longer backdated to Jan. 1, a provision that would have required DeKalb to return its $2 million grant. A retroactive law could have been challenged in court since it was legal for DeKalb to receive the money at the time.

The law would go into effect when Kemp signs the bill.