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Alabama Senate, House pass bill targeting private funding for elections

The bill was in in response to grants funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2020 in which he spent $350 million in national elections.

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The Alabama Senate on Thursday, the last day of the legislative session, passed a bill prohibiting the use of private donations to fund election expenses.

House Bill 194, sponsored by Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, would make it a misdemeanor for public election officials to solicit, accept “or use any donation in the form of money, grants, property, or personal services from an individual or a nongovernmental entity for the purpose of funding election-related expenses or voter education, voter outreach, or voter registration programs.”

The bill is similar to legislation passed in several other states and is in response to grants funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2020 in which he spent $350 million through the nonprofit organization Center for Tech and Civic Life to election offices across the country.

Sen. Athur Orr, R- , discussed Zuckerberg’s funding matter during debate on the bill Thursday. 

“It was interesting how it played out across the country, that it went primarily in certain districts, and not as the state as a whole,” Orr said of the funding. 

Sen Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, spoke against the bill prior to the vote, saying money in elections has never been fairly distributed. 

“I know where the big money came from in 2010,” Smitherman said of Alabama’s 2010 elections, when the state’s Republican party claimed the majority in the state House and Senate for the first time in 136 years. 

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Smitherman promised that he’d talk at length on every last bill to be considered Thursday, what was to be the last day of the session, which would either limit the number of bills that could be voted on, or require the Senate to return on Friday to take votes on the remaining bills. 

After more than an hour of debate on the bill members voted 25-7 to pass the bill, as did the House later in the day, sending it to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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