Wisconsin’s governor has vetoed legislation that would restrict county clerks and the state election commission from accepting some private funding for administering elections.
Assembly Bill 173 would “generally prohibit any county or municipality from applying for or accepting any non-governmental grants or donations for election administration,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement to members of the assembly.
“I am vetoing this bill because I object to restrictions on local governments potentially using supplemental funding for election administration,” the Democrat said, alleging that the bill would impose unnecessary restrictions on the use of private funding.
Counties and other jurisdictions received private funding during the COVID-19 pandemic that “helped them conduct safe elections under extraordinary circumstances,” paying for poll workers and personal protective equipment, according to the first-term governor.
The veto came earlier this month after the state Senate approved the bill 18–14 and the state Assembly approved it 60–36.
Overriding a governor’s veto in Wisconsin requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, a Republican, panned the veto in a statement.
“Tony Evers had an opportunity to take a stand for free and fair elections in our state by signing this bill,” Steineke said. “Instead, he chose to stand with Big Tech billionaires and liberal political operatives and allowed this dubious behavior to continue into the future.”
Conservatives have criticized the major jump in private funding seen during the 2020 election. Some of the funds came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit that receives money from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The center gave more than $6 million in grants to five Wisconsin cities last year. A federal judge rejected a request to block the grants, saying they didn’t violate state law.
Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook last year that the center is nonpartisan and that the funding went to help counties have proper staffing, training, and equipment.
“To be clear, I agree with those who say that government should have provided these funds, not private citizens. I hope that for future elections the government provides adequate funding. But absent that funding, I think it’s critical that this urgent need is met,” he said at the time.
Other bills that would change election rules, passed by the Wisconsin Senate last month, haven’t yet reached the governor’s desk. They’re pending approval by the lower chamber. But Evers has signaled that he will veto any bills he believes would make it more difficult for people to vote.