On the Brennan Center for Justice and our Election Funding Crisis
I don’t like to send out emails saying, “[x] is a major crisis!” because I worry the news industry does this too much for things that are not actually crises, leaving audiences overwhelmed and tapped out with their energy. That said, after reporting this story on election infrastructure, I do think this is an under-discussed emergency, and merits far more attention than it’s gotten.
It’s the crisis around funding for our elections. Many don’t realize this, but one reason the 2020 election went smoothly (save for, you know, January 6 and attempted subversion of the results) was because of this little known Chicago-based nonprofit called the Center for Tech and Civic Life. It stepped forward to donate nearly $350 million across 2,500 counties to plug holes left by the government. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong in the days leading up to and following an election, and the #1 thing local election officials have said for years they need is more funding for equipment, operations, security. But Congress has been really bad about stepping up to fill that void, and when they have, it can take years for the money to get appropriated.
In my last freelance story, I wrote for The Intercept about what’s happened since the 2020 election. It’s a mix of mostly Republican-led states stepping forward to ban any future philanthropic donations to elections (which last cycle was largely donated by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, who Republicans distrust) while Congress has dithered on its own new appropriations.
It’s also a look at how the Brennan Center for Justice, an influential progressive think tank and advocacy group, steered Congress’s focus away from funding for election infrastructure last year, maintaining that it would be a distraction from the big omnibus voting rights bill that democracy advocates were pushing for. Brennan’s president also told me they felt the funding amount local election officials were calling for was too high, though he couldn’t provide an alternative figure of what they thought would be better. (Following our interview, the Brennan Center asked if I would take that part off the record.)
More details in the story, and you can read it here.
Hope is not lost; in its newly released 2023 fiscal budget, the Biden administration requested $10 billion for election funding over the next 10 years, which is encouraging.
Though Congress was considering $15-20 billion as recently as last summer before it got scrapped. The future of free and fair elections depends on securing them, and I’d say election funding is an issue that’s worth making calls to your representative about.
Thanks as always. I hope to deliver some worthy new stories from Vox soon.