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Nonprofits’ grants go to St. Charles County, Lincoln County, Missouri election agencies

Nonprofits’ grants go to St. Charles County, Lincoln County, Missouri election agencies

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St. Louis County voters drop off ballots

A woman takes an "I Voted" sticker after dropping off an absentee ballot outside the St. Louis County Government Center in St. Ann on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Election agencies in St. Charles and Lincoln counties have received grants from a national nonprofit group to help cover coronavirus-related expenses, officials said Friday.

The grants from the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life, funded largely by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, are similar to those facing legal challenges from conservative groups in four other states.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Missouri’s chief election official, has accepted a $1.4 million grant from a separate nonprofit that also got a big donation from Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

Kurt Bahr, the St. Charles County elections director, said his office received $667,000 from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. He said it will be used for paying temporary poll workers being hired to work Election Day and to cover other election costs. 

In Lincoln County, chief deputy county clerk Mike Kreuger said $23,739 his office received from the same organization will be used to buy additional voting equipment and protective equipment for poll workers.

Those allotments were in addition to $2 million and $1 million grants awarded by the nonprofit to St. Louis County and St. Louis, respectively.

The lawsuits filed in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania allege that grants from the center are aimed at boosting turnout in Democratic-leaning areas.

A Clayton-based attorney representing plaintiffs in the Michigan case says he also has concerns about the center’s grants in Missouri. He said private organizations shouldn’t be paying for the costs of elections run by taxpayer-funded agencies.

Center for Tech and Civic Life has said the $250 million it received from Zuckerberg and Chan is available to any local election agency across the country.

Democrats generally carry St. Louis and St. Louis County in major races while Republicans in recent years have dominated electoral politics in St. Charles County. Ashcroft and Bahr, who both hold elective posts, are Republicans.

The separate grant of $1.4 million to Ashcroft’s office came from the Washington-based Center for Election Innovation and Research, which got a $50 million contribution from Zuckerberg and Chan.

Nationally, that group’s grants are going for public information campaigns explaining mail voting and logistics.

Maura Browning, a spokeswoman for Ashcroft, said about $1 million from the grant was used to mail information on voting options during the pandemic to every household in the state with a registered voter.

She said the remainder will pay for television and radio ads and social media announcements.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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