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Lawmakers vote to ban donations for election expenses

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala, (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Thursday voted to ban election offices from accepting donations and grants from private organizations to help fund voting operations, including voter registration, education and outreach.

If signed into law, Alabama would be the latest state to ban such donations— a movement at least partly fueled by conservatives’ suspicion about donations by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2020. The Alabama Senate approved the bill on a 25-7 vote with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed.

The bill now goes to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey for her consideration.

The bill would make it a misdemeanor for a public official to accept donations, grants and donated services from an individual or a nongovernmental entity to help fund election-related expenses or voter education, voter outreach, or voter registration programs.

While Republicans argued it is needed to protect election integrity, opponents said it would hinder election administration in poor counties and have a chilling effect on efforts to help people register and vote.

Rep. Wes Allen, who is running for secretary of state, sponsored the bill.

“Running our elections is a core function of our government. We want to make sure that private money is not purchasing our machines, not purchasing the ballots or not paying salaries of our election officials,” Allen said.

Republicans in at least eight GOP-controlled states have passed bans on donations to election offices this year, seeking to block outside funding of voting operations.

The League of Women Voters of Alabama, Black Voters Matter and other groups have spoken out against the measure.

Kathy Jones, president of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, said the measure would impact “the state’s poorest and underserved county election officials and their staff by prohibiting them from accepting assistance in the form of grants, property, or personal services.”

“This harmful HB194 bill sadly criminalizes collaboration by election officials (and workers) with local Alabama voting rights organizations across the state to better assist citizens who must be ready and able to vote,” Jones wrote in an emailed response to the bill’s passage.

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