Private funding of elections ban on the ballot this week in Louisiana

Welcome to the Monday, October 9, Brew. 

By: Juan Garcia de Paredes

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Louisiana voters to decide amendment that would ban private funding for the administration of elections
  2. The rest of Louisiana’s ballot measures
  3. Governors issue 78 executive orders from Sept. 11-Oct. 1

Louisiana voters to decide amendment that would ban private funding for the administration of elections

On Oct. 14 (yes, Saturday), Louisiana voters will decide Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment that would ban private, non-governmental, and foreign funding for the administration of elections in the state. 

While 25 states have passed legislation banning private funding for the administration of elections, Louisiana Amendment 1 is the first time voters will decide the issue via ballot measure.

The amendment would add the following language to the Louisiana Constitution: “No funds, goods, or services donated by a foreign government or a nongovernmental source shall be used to conduct elections unless provided for in the election code and subject to restrictions provided by general law.”

The amendment needed two-thirds of the vote in both chambers to be referred to voters. Below is its path to the ballot:

Before the Nov. 3, 2020, general election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, donated a total of $350 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL).

Zuckerberg said the money would “support election officials with the infrastructure they need to administer the vote — including voting equipment, PPE for poll workers, and hiring additional poll staff.” According to CTCL’s website, the group used the funds to provide grants to nearly 2,500 jurisdictions around the country during the 2020 election cycle.

The donations sparked debate about the use of private funding for election administration efforts. Following the election, several states introduced legislation related to this activity. Close to 30 states introduced bills related to the private funding of election administration in 2022, and almost 20 did so in 2023.

Louisiana State Rep. Blake Miguez (R-49), who sponsored the amendment in the House, said, “With the passage of [the amendment], the Republican legislative supermajority in Louisiana took a strong step today towards prohibiting the use of foreign and private funds to pay for any part of our election system.

Democracy Docket, an organization that describes itself as a “progressive source for information, analysis and opinion about voting rights, elections, and democracy,” wrote, “These measures are fueled by election conspiracy theories and could make chronic underfunding of our elections offices even worse.”

As of June 2023, 25 states had enacted legislation prohibiting private funding for election administration. Lawmakers enacted all but one of these laws in 2021 or 2022; Montana enacted a ban this year. Twenty-one of the 25 states that have enacted legislation restricting the use of private funds for election administration had Republican trifectas at the time of enactment. Of the remaining four, three had Republican-controlled legislatures and Democratic governors, while in Virginia, Democrats controlled the Senate, and Republicans controlled the House of Delegates and the governorship.

In 2022, Michigan voters approved Proposal 2, which included multiple changes to election and voting policies. It added language to the Michigan Constitution that continued to permit private donations for election administration, provided donations were not from foreign sources and there was a public disclosure process.

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The rest of Louisiana’s ballot measures

Amendment 1 is one of eight constitutional amendments Louisiana voters will decide this fall. The Legislature referred four of these amendments to the Oct. 14 ballot and the other four to the Nov. 18 ballot.

On Oct. 14, voters will decide the following four constitutional amendments:

  • Amendment 1, which would prohibit the use of funds, goods, and services from foreign governments or nongovernmental sources in conducting elections.
  • Amendment 2, which would provide that the freedom to worship in a church or other place of worship is a fundamental right deserving the highest level of protection;
  • Amendment 3, which would require a minimum allocation of 25% of nonrecurring state revenue to address the unfunded liability of the state retirement system; and
  • Amendment 4, which would prohibit nonprofit organizations from receiving property tax exemptions if they own residential properties that pose a danger to public health or safety due to disrepair.

Some of the local ballot measures that will be on the Oct. 14 ballot in Louisiana include:

  • Voters in East Baton Rouge Parish will decide on a measure to renew a 3.13 mill property tax levy ($313 per $100,000 of assessed value) to fund emergency medical services through 2034.

Voters in Orleans Parish will decide on the following four local measures:

  • Proposition 1, which would move the deadline up 30 days for the City Planning Commission to submit a capital program to the Mayor so the city council has additional time to conduct public hearings on budget matters;
  • Proposition 2, which would authorize the Department of Code Enforcement, rather than the Departments of Safety and Permits and Sanitation, to inspect property and authorize demolition or remediation of property found to be hazardous to health, as well as enforce laws and regulations for removing trash and weeds from streets and vacant lots;
  • A school board proposition that would renew a 4.97 mill property tax ($497 per $100,000 of assessed value) for 20 years to fund improvements and repairs to public school facilities; and
  • A measure that would levy a $300 annual fee for improved parcels of land to promote beautification and security within the Lake Willow Subdivision Improvement District for a period of three years.

On Nov. 18, voters will decide the following statewide constitutional amendments (Numbering for ballot measures often starts at 1 in each election even if the elections are in the same calendar year).

  • Amendment 1, which would establish that the Legislature has the authority to consider vetoed bills during regular or extraordinary sessions instead of convening a separate veto session;
  • Amendment 2, which would repeal constitutional provisions that establish various inactive state funds and permit the transfer of remaining funds to the state general fund;
  • Amendment 3, which would authorize local governments to grant an additional property tax exemption of up to $2,500 for first responders, including firefighters, emergency medical service personnel, emergency response dispatchers, peace officers, police officers, and sheriffs; and
  • Amendment 4, which would allow the Legislature, through a two-thirds supermajority vote, to use up to $250 million from the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund to address a budget deficit.

From 1999 to 2021, a total of 56 constitutional amendments appeared on the Lousiana ballot during odd-numbered years. Voters approved 37 (67.27%), and defeated 19 (34.54%). An average of five constitutional amendments were on the statewide ballot during odd years in Louisiana.

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Governors issue 78 executive orders from Sept. 11-Oct. 1

Governors issued 78 executive orders from Sept. 11-Oct. 1. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) led the field with 21, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) with 19. Governors in 30 states issued the fewest orders with zero.

Governors use executive orders to manage executive branch operations. The most recent 78 account for 6% of the year-to-date total of 1,242. Kemp leads with 420 orders issued since Jan. 1, followed by DeSantis with 193 and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) with 134.

Governors have been issuing an average of 32 executive orders per week so far this year. In 2022, the average was 30.

Georgia and Florida lead in the number of executive orders issued for two reasons: unlike most states, Georgia governors use executive orders to appoint and reappoint members of state boards and judges. In Florida, also unlike most states, the governor uses executive orders for state attorney executive assignments.

Governors in 15 states have issued fewer than five orders since the start of the year, and those in Alaska, Mississippi, and Texas have yet to issue any orders so far. 

In states with a Republican trifecta, governors issued 785 orders, while governors in states with a Democratic trifecta issued 337. A trifecta is when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. In states where neither party holds trifecta control, governors issued 120 orders.

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