Counties withdraw from Zuckerberg-linked elections program

FILE – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

RALEIGH — Brunswick and Forsyth counties have withdrawn their participation in the “U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence” program launched by the Mark Zuckerberg-linked Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL).

Letters to the program show Forsyth’s Director of Elections Tim Tsujii withdrew the county’s participation on Nov. 9, 2023.

“The Forsyth County Board of Elections office will not be able to fully participate in all upcoming Alliance activities due to the immense amount of work and preparation needed to effectively administer the 2024 election cycle,” Tsujii’s letter reads in part.

Brunswick County’s Elections Director Sara LaVere’s Dec. 8, 2023, letter to the program stated a similar reason as Tsujii’s.

“We have withdrawn from the Alliance. My top priority is to ensure my office is prepared to conduct the primary and general elections this year,” Lavere said in an email to North State Journal.

“I am currently the President of the N.C. Association of Directors of Elections. I am a member of the Election Assistance Commission Local Leadership Council. I am also a member of the Commission on the Future of NC Elections, serving on 3 committees,” said Lavere. “Going into a busy election year, it was necessary to remove something from my plate.”

A press release by the Honest Elections Project applauded the move.

“Brunswick and Forsyth Counties’ withdrawal from the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence marks a major development, and victory, in the fight against left-wing dark money influence on election administration,” Honest Elections Project Executive Director Jason Sneed said in the press release.

Honest Elections Project describes itself as a “nonpartisan group devoted to supporting the right of every lawful voter to participate in free and honest elections.”

“Officials from both counties cite membership requirements that were too time consuming to continue while preparing for the upcoming election season – an interesting admission about a group that claims to ‘make the work of election officials easier, not harder.’ The question remains, what exactly were the demands that made officials’ jobs more difficult?” Sneed said.

The press release also encourages other counties to withdraw from the program and included copies of the withdrawal letters.

“The offices that run our elections should be accountable to the public alone, the press release states. “Special interests privately funding election administration sow distrust in our election process. The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence has no place in the democratic process.”

North State Journal reported in January 2023 that CTCL had announced $80 million in outside funding would go out to state boards of election over the next five years. The funding announcement came with a list of 10 county and municipal election offices to receive grants in the first round – with almost no restrictions on what the money could be spent on. North Carolina’s Brunswick and Forsyth Counties were among the 10.

CTLC spent an estimated $419 million in grants on election boards in 2,500 counties during the 2020 presidential campaign.

The funds were doled out in 49 states during 2020, including North Carolina where 35 counties received a combined total of $5.395 million from CTCL. The State Board of Elections and Wake County each received a million. Durham County received over $1.46 million.