BRUNSWICK COUNTY — A recent resolution signed by Brunswick County commissioners regarding board of elections use of private money has drawn criticism from the Brunswick County Democratic Party.
The group issued a press release Monday, urging the board of elections to reject the county commissioner’s request to terminate the BOE’s membership with the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. The “nonpartisan collaborative” funnels resources and networking opportunities to local election offices in an effort to improve election processes.
READ MORE: Brunswick commissioners spurn private money running BOE, cite ‘Zuckerberg and tech billionaires’ influence
The Brunswick County board of elections is set to discuss the issue at its April 18 meeting.
Last month, the board adopted a resolution drafted by commissioner Frank Williams strongly suggesting to remove itself from the alliance, an $80-million, five-year program funded by The Audacious Project, a TED initiative. In the resolution, Williams claims the organization is funded by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech billionaires.
While Zuckerberg funded grants to update election operations and technology in 2020, the Facebook founder is not the funding source of the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence — the only private group accepted by the Brunswick County board of elections.
Still, the resolution states the commissioners oppose the use of any money from private groups in board of elections’ operations.
The Brunswick County Democratic Party claims the commissioners’ findings and the GOP resolution are “based upon unproven and false premises — a political trope.”
The announcement states Republican commissioners who support the proposal argue, without evidence, association with the privately funded alliance opens the door to corruption and election fraud.
Eric Terashima, chair of the Brunswick County Democratic Party, spoke out against the commissioners’ action.
“Never mind there’s no proof of corruption or fraud in our elections,” he said in the party’s press release. “This non-partisan organization is a valuable national resource. To suggest otherwise is yet another attempt by Republicans to vilify election workers and to limit fair and open access to the ballot box.”
Last month, the Brunswick County board of elections director, Sarah LaVere, told Port City Daily the office’s participation so far has just been in networking and conference opportunities. The only funding received has come for an estimated $2,000 travel expense reimbursement for a conference trip.
LaVere was an advocate for membership in the organization, as a way to connect with other local offices to discuss challenges and methods for election operations. The Brunswick County Democratic Party defends LaVere’s judgement in its press release, citing her recent nomination to the presidency of the North Carolina Association of Directors of Elections.
“We don’t want our county’s election staff diminished because of baseless, partisan
conspiracy theories advanced by the County Commission,” the party stated in the release. “The BOE’s operation exemplifies excellence. It need not take advice from those who undermine trust in elections and damage the organization they are claiming to protect.”
After publication on Monday, Commissioner Frank Williams reached out to Port City Daily with a response to the Brunswick County Democrat’s announcment.
“I stand by our position that private money has no place in the administration of our elections,” Williams said. “The fact that the opposing party is so passionate about defending the use of private money in our elections demonstrates the importance of keeping it out.”
He also again asserted the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence was funded by Zuckerberg by stating the “Center for Tech & Civic Life’s own website clearly lists Facebook as a partner, and the Alliance’s website lists CTCL as a partner.”
The CTCL received a one-time grant from Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan in 2020. Due to political pushback, the couple announced in 2022 they would not continue to privately fund election offices in the future. After their announcement, CTCL launched the alliance, which is sponsored by the Audacious Project, a program of TED Conferences supported by private donors. The Zuckerbergs have no involvement with the alliance.
Terashima called on citizens who oppose the GOP measure to be present at the BOE’s
April 18 meeting. It takes place at 2 p.m. in commissioners’ chambers in the David Sandifer Administration Building, 30 Government Center Drive, in Bolivia.
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