Wisconsin voters pass ballot measure barring private funds for election administration

A ballot measure in Wisconsin that bars the use of private funds in administering elections passed on Tuesday, according to a Decision Desk HQ projection.

The ballot measure received 54 percent support, according to DDHQ, with 98 percent of the vote reported as of Wednesday morning.

The measure asked Wisconsinites if the state Constitution should be amended “to provide that private donations and grants may not be applied for, accepted, expended, or used in connection with the conduct of any primary, election, or referendum?”

A separate ballot measure in the Badger State, to amend the state Constitution to note that only designated election officials can conduct elections, also passed with close to 59 percent of the vote, according to DDHQ projections.

The first ballot measure over private funding came against the backdrop of Republican backlash after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated several hundred million dollars to two groups that offered grants to local municipalities to conduct elections as they grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 election cycle.

Earlier this year, the city of Milwaukee accepted a grant for both the Milwaukee Election Commission and Milwaukee Public Library from the Cities Forward nonprofit which would “launch a citywide public education campaign to increase civic connection among residents,” according to the city.

Republicans baselessly alleged that those efforts during the pandemic were being done to aid Democrats. The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) dismissed a complaint in 2022 regarding Zuckerberg and his wife and their donations.

Still, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported in December that 27 states “prohibit, limit or regulate the use of private or philanthropic funding to run elections.”

Wisconsin is among a handful of key battleground states that will likely determine the presidency and control of the Senate. Former President Trump lost the state in 2020 to President Biden by just more than 20,000 votes.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.