A majority of voters in Wisconsin approved an amendment to the state’s constitution on Tuesday banning private money from influencing elections. The amendment, which comes in the form of two Republican-backed referendums, addresses the controversy over so-called “Zuckerbucks,” or massive political contributions from wealthy, out-of-state donors like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

During the 2020 presidential election, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, poured roughly $420 million into the Center for Tech and Civic Life and the Center for Election Innovation & Research, two left-leaning nonprofit advocacy groups that campaign to expand voter access. In 2020, the “relief grants” from Zuckerberg and Chan were ostensibly used to “help election officials buy supplies and run elections at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic before vaccines were available.”

More than 200 Wisconsin municipalities benefitted from these grants, dubbed “Zuckerbucks” (alternatively “Zuck bucks”), as did other regions in other battleground states. Election clerks were then free to use the funds in a variety of ways, including paying for personal protective equipment or setting up drop boxes for absentee ballots.

These contributions are believed to have played a key role in shifting the 2020 election in favor of the Democratic Party.

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The two ballot initiatives proposed by Wisconsin’s Republican legislators were intended to prevent such donations from compromising election integrity in future elections. Specifically, Question 1 of the referendum prohibited state election clerks from using private funds to administer elections, and Question 2 stated that only appointed officials should oversee the electoral process.

With 99 percent of the vote counted by Wednesday morning, 54.4 percent of voters approved Question 1, and 58.6 percent approved Question 2.

Question 2 was previously adopted into state law, but enshrining it in the Wisconsin Constitution secures it against legislative changes in the future.

“Wisconsin has spoken and the message is clear: elections belong to voters, not out-of-state billionaires,” GOP Chairman Brian Schimming said. “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.”

However, Democrats argued that operating elections in the battleground state will be far more difficult without private contributions given existing budget shortfalls.

“Rather than work to make sure our clerks have the resources they need to run elections, Republicans are pushing a nonsense amendment to satisfy Donald Trump,” Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Ben Wikler said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

In response to the Zuckerbucks controversy, Alabama and Florida have similarly banned private funding for the electoral process, and at least 27 other states have approved similar ballot measures or enacted legislation to the same effect.

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau, Wisconsinites have approved roughly 150 of the 200 constitutional ratifications proposed since 1854.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Valuetainment.com. Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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