Mississippi joins states restricting outside election funding

Mississippi is the latest Republican-led state to ban polling stations from accepting donations from private groups for ballot operations — a move fueled by conservative suspicions about donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2020.

Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed House Bill 1365 on Friday, which goes into effect July 1. It states that state or local officials administering elections may not solicit or accept donations from private groups for “voter education, voter canvassing, or voter registration programs.”

Reeves said in a video posted to Facebook on Monday that he was “deeply concerned by Big Tech’s attempt to influence the 2020 election.”

“Whether it was their attempt to silence conservative voices or suppress information they disagree with, California’s tech elite will stop at nothing to impose their woke ideology on the American people,” Reeves said. “Our elections cannot be left to billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, especially when groups like Facebook are systematically silencing conservative voices on their platforms.”

Republicans control the Mississippi House and Senate. The final version of the bill passed the Senate by a 49-2 vote and bipartisan support. It passed the House 78-38 with opposition from Democrats.

Jessica Anderson is executive director of conservative Heritage Action For America, which has pushed for such bans. She said in a statement Monday that the new law will ban the use of “zuck bucks.”

“Mississippians deserve fair elections, free from the outside influence of big tech billionaires,” Anderson said.

Zuckerberg and his wife Patricia Chan donated $400 million to US election surgeries in 2020 as officials try to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life distributed grants to 2,500 polling stations across the country. The money has been spent in a variety of ways — protective gear for poll workers, public education campaigns to promote new voting methods during the pandemic, and new trucks to transport voting equipment.

In 2020, Louisiana’s Republican Attorney General ordered his state’s election offices to reject grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which distributed $350 million of the Zuckerberg money.

As of 2021, at least eight Republican-led states had enacted bans on private donations to polling stations. Republican Gov. of South Dakota Kristi Noem signed a ban in March.

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