Ban on ‘Zuckerbucks’ elections money passes Georgia Senate

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Legislation follows millions given by Zuckerberg’s nonprofit

The Georgia Senate voted Thursday to ban donations to county election offices, cutting off money from nonprofit organizations such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which was funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Senators voted along party lines, 33-23, to advance the measure, a priority of Republicans who have expressed concerns about the potential influence of outside “Zuckerbucks” money on election administration. Senate Bill 222 will next be considered by the state House.

Democrats opposed the bill, saying private funding was a vital resource to strained election offices, both during the 2020 presidential election and before last year’s midterms.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Max Burns, said taxpayers’ money should pay for elections, not nonprofits that can pick and choose which areas receive the greatest financial benefits.

“It is to ensure that our elections are funded through lawfully appropriated funds and not influenced by outside funding sources,” said Burns, a Republican from Sylvania.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life donated an estimated $43 million to Georgia counties during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 for items such as absentee ballot postage costs, election equipment, voter education and protective gear.

The money was available to all counties, regardless of political makeup, and several Republican-leaning counties received donations as well, according to public records. Funding went to areas including Cherokee, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett and Paulding counties.

Though the election law the General Assembly passed in 2021 already banned direct outside funding of election operations, DeKalb County’s government accepted a $2 million grant this year and then distributed it to the county’s election office.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

“It’s very apparent this bill is partisan backlash,” said state Sen. Nabilah Islam, a Democrat from Lawrenceville. “Why is this body trying to make it harder to administer elections? Why is this body trying to make elections more expensive for the taxpayers?”

If the legislation becomes law, private funding would only be permitted to be donated to the state government, which would then distribute it to local election offices.

The State Election Board has proposed a plan to distribute funding to counties.

A separate elections bill that empowers challenges to voter eligibility and bans ballot drop boxes is also pending in the state Senate. That measure, Senate Bill 221, could receive a vote Monday.