Alabama House passes bill banning private funding of campaign expenses

The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill that would make it a crime for state and county election officials to accept money or services from private groups or individuals to help with expenses related to elections and voter education, outreach and registration.

The bill is from Representative Wes Allen, a Trojan Republican and candidate for Secretary of State.

The House passed Bill 72-28 with support from Republicans and opposition from Democrats. He moves to the Senate. The vote came after the Republican majority voted to end debate on the bill.

Allen said the goal is to prevent the use of private funds by state and local election officials who are responsible for organizing elections to help pay for the administration of those elections.

The League of Women Voters of Alabama, Black Voters Matter, the ACLU of Alabama and others spoke out against the bill at a press conference on Tuesday, saying the threat of criminal punishment would suppress efforts aimed at helping people register and vote. Democrats opposed the bill in the House today.

Allen said the bill would not interfere with voter education and registration efforts by private groups. He said the law would only apply to state and local officials responsible for organizing elections. Allen said this was to guard against undue influence on what is a core function of government that could result from the mixing of private and public funds.

Allen’s bill, HB 194, states: “Notwithstanding any other law, no state or local public official responsible for the conduct of an election, or his employee, may solicit, accept, or use any donation under form of money, grants, property, or personal services of an individual or non-governmental entity for the purpose of funding election-related expenses or voter education, voter outreach, or voter registration programs. voters.

A violation of the law would be a misdemeanor.

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, wanted to propose an amendment to remove “personal services” from what the bill would prohibit election officials from accepting. Hall was not allowed to move the amendment because Republicans had already approved the petition to end debate. Hall said “personal services” added an arbitrary element to the bill.

At least eight states with Republican-controlled legislatures passed restrictions on private election financing last year, the Associated Press reported. This was after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $400 million to help local governments cover increased election expenses caused by the pandemic in 2020. Conservative groups said the money had gone disproportionately to Democratic-leaning counties, the AP reported.

According to an NPR report, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a Chicago-based nonprofit, awarded grants to more than 2,500 local governments to help pay for the 2020 election. This was after Zuckerberg donated $350 million dollars to the non-profit organization.

Seven Alabama counties received grants, according to the NPR report, which cites information from the Center for Tech and Civic Life: Bullock, Dallas, Hale, Jefferson, Macon, Montgomery and Wilcox.

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