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Wisconsin voters ban Zuckerbucks after effectively overriding their Democratic governor's past vetoes
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Wisconsin voters ban Zuckerbucks after effectively overriding their Democratic governor's past vetoes

Wisconsin has joined 27 other states in making it more difficult for ideologues with deep pockets — such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — to financially meddle in elections.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has vetoed multiple efforts to keep so-called "Zuckerbucks" out of elections in the Badger State. The state's Republican-controlled legislature figured lawmakers would give their constituents the final word on the matter, successfully voting to put corresponding constitutional amendments on the April primary ballot.

The first question put to voters on the ballot Tuesday was whether Section 7(1) of Article III of the Wisconsin Constitution should be amended to prohibit all levels of government and all state employees from applying for, accepting, spending, or using money or equipment "in connection with the conduct of any primary, election, or referendum if the moneys or equipment are donated or granted by an individual or nongovernmental entity."

This proposed amendment was backed by the Wisconsin Voter Alliance, Election Integrity for Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and various other groups keen on restoring voter confidence and protecting American elections from private interference.

Critics alleged that Zuckerberg's extensive funding of election administration during the pandemic was anything but benign — that the funds benefited then-candidate Joe Biden in 2020 to the tune of thousands of votes; that voter outreach funds have mostly gone to left-leaning cities of strategic importance; that "Zuckerberg illegal absentee ballot drop boxes scattered across Wisconsin" specifically served to help Democrats; and that the scheme amounted to a clever way of leftist billionaires getting around campaign finance laws.

State Sen. Eric Wimberger (R), a sponsor of the amendment, suggested days ahead of the vote that Republicans are "securing our elections by making sure local election officials, not out-of-state billionaires, are in charge of administering Wisconsin's elections."

"In recent election cycles, out-of-state billionaires have given grants to local governments in Wisconsin that influence and even control how elections are run," said Wimberger. "But Wisconsin's elections shouldn't be run by unaccountable, out-of-state organizations using private money. They should be run by local non-partisan officials and paid for by the community."

State Rep. Tyler August, another proponent of the amendment, posted an infographic to X last month stating, "In 2020 alone, Wisconsin received over $10 million in Zuckerbucks. 85% of that money was directed to the five widely Democrat cities: Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha & Green Bay."

NBC News noted that this $10 million from Zuckerberg and his wife was mediated by a group called the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which was founded by Zuckerberg.

Democrats and other leftists opposed the amendment.

The ACLU of Wisconsin was among the outfits that sided with billionaires and dark money, stating, "Our democracy depends on local election officials having the staff and resources to do their jobs. The same politicians who put these questions on the ballot stripped millions in funding from the state budget to support election administration."

The second question posed on Tuesday's ballot asked whether the state constitution should be amended to "provide that only election officials designated by law may perform tasks in the conduct of primaries, elections, and referendums."

With over 95% of the votes in at the time of publication, the New York Times reported that 54.4% of voters answered "yes" to the first question and nearly 59% of voters answered "yes" to the second question.

According to Ballotpedia, as of January, 27 states have enacted laws in or after 2021 banning or limiting the use of private money in the administration of elections; 21 of these states were Republican-controlled.

Following the vote, Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Brian Schimming stated, "Victory! Wisconsin has spoken and the message is clear: elections belong to voters, not out-of-state billionaires. Thanks to the efforts by the Republican Party of Wisconsin and grassroots organizing, Wisconsinites have turned the page on Zuckerbucks and secured our elections from dark money donors."

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative group that supported the amendments, also celebrated the Tuesday result.

"The administration of our elections should be fair, impartial, and free from outside influence. With today's results, voters sent a clear message that they want to keep private money out of election administration," Rick Esenberg, WILL president and general counsel, said in a statement. "Today, Wisconsin becomes the 28th state to approve a measure to keep private funding out of impartial election administration. Whether you identify with the left or the right, ensuring the fairness and integrity of our elections should be a shared priority."

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