March 2021 – Flush with cash from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the Center for Tech and Civil Life (CTCL) flooded key Texas county election offices with cash to adopt procedures preferred by the outside group. With the dust on the election settled, it’s time to discern how the money was spent, if it influenced outcomes, and just how much cash are we talking about? The answer is, the private money started the process of turning Texas toward procedures outside of the normal statutory framework for running elections.
What Were Counties Promising to Do with the Money?
Grant award letters reviewed by the Foundation showed Texas counties were given money to help shift voting to the mail and away from traditional procedures in Texas law. The large blue-leaning counties received huge sums to transform their elections. Smaller red counties did not receive anything close. Mandated changes included were:
- Drive-thru voting
- Mail voting sorting assets
- Polling place rental expenses
- Temp labor expenses, hazard pay
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Voter education/outreach/radio costs
How Much Money Was Given?
The CTCL and various Texas counties were not always transparent on how the money was spent at the time—or even that they received funds. Some were more open than others. The rough estimate between large and politically close counties was $25 million shortly before the election. PILF accounted for $36 million across 14 of these counties.
Access the full research brief here.