Bills Banning Drop Boxes and Private Election Grants Sent to Arkansas Gov. Sanders to Sign

Legislation to ban drop boxes in Arkansas has been delivered to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders for her signature. A separate bill banning private grants for the administration of elections was also passed on March 16 and sent to the governor’s desk.

Sanders, a Republican, has not publicly announced whether she will sign the bills. The Epoch Times reached out to the governor’s office for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

Drop Boxes No More

Senate Bill 258 states that county clerks, public employees, or election officials “shall not establish or use a drop box for the purpose of collecting absentee ballots.”

The legislation (pdf) further states that no voter in the state shall deliver an absentee ballot through a drop box. Instead, all absentee ballots in the state not delivered by mail are required to be “hand delivered inside the physical office of the county clerk.”

The bill passed strictly along party lines, with the Senate’s six Democrats voting against the bill and the chamber’s 29 Republicans voting to send the bill to the governor’s desk.

The same was true of an earlier House vote, where 80 Republicans voted to approve the bill, 16 Democrats voted against the bill, and two members of each party abstained.

Democrat Opposition to Drop Box Bill

Democrat state Rep. Tippi McCullough spoke against the drop box bill, KUAR reported.

She said voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in Arkansas and ballot boxes are rarely used anywhere in the state, according to the outlet.

“We already have abysmal voter turnout in our state, and this bill does nothing to help increase our civic engagement,” McCullough said, adding that ballot boxes may have “afforded a voter the chance to cast their first vote.”

The Epoch Times reached out to the Arkansas Democratic Party for comment but did not hear back before press time.

Private Grants for Election Administration

Senate Bill 255 restricts the source of election funding in the state. Current law only prohibits county boards of election commissioners from accepting private grants.

The new legislation (pdf) would prohibit state or county employees or officials from taking or accepting “any funding, grants, or gifts, services, or anything else of value, for the purpose of paying election related expenses or performing his or her other duties.”

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
The Arkansas State Flag and U.S. flag fly in front of the State Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on Dec. 1, 2022. (Janice Hisle/The Epoch Times)

It further states funding is only allowed from sources such as municipal, county, state, and federal governments.

This bill was less controversial, as no Democrat in either chamber voted against it. In the House, four Republicans and one Democrat abstained.

Similar Legislation Introduced Federally

Proponents of private election funding argue that private grants help fund election offices with few resources.

Democracy Docket, a progressive advocacy organization focusing on voting rights and elections, makes this argument.

“Though private grants can be crucial to running elections, they have become a target for Republican lawmakers since 2020 when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated over $400 million to election offices through the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL),” Democracy Docket wrote in a statement about the legislation passing, describing it as an “anti-voting bill.”

There are already 24 states with restrictions or outright bans on private election funding, according to the Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank. Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia.

The Montana Legislature is also considering a bill to prohibit private election funding.

In Congress, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) introduced similar legislation in the House this week to prohibit such funding at the federal level.

Tenney reintroduced the “End Zuckerbucks Act” on March 15, which would direct the IRS to block 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations from directly funding official election organizations.

“CTCL funneled Mark Zuckerberg’s personal wealth to election agencies of his choosing without a shred of transparency or accountability,” she said in a press release. “This kind of influence operation by a third party in America’s elections undermines public confidence in the democratic process. It puts private donors in charge of dictating to government agencies what should and should not be done. We cannot allow organizations like this to flout the law or continue their partisan, private funding of our elections.”

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