An elections group funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $5.6 million to the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the leadup to the 2020 presidential election, Georgia Star News reports.
The Washington DC-based Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) donated the money to Georgia, as well as at least nine other states.
"Georgia used CEIR grant funds in both the November general election and January runoff election to encourage voters to apply for a ballot online," the group said. "This approach sped up the process for both voters and election officials while also making it easier to track application status."
According to CEIR, the funding was also used "to counteract disinformation, issuing public service announcements warning voters of disinformation and encouraging them to report fraud to the Secretary of State hotline."
Walter Jones, a spokesman for Raffensperger's office, said that the funds "enabled this and local elections offices to combat disinformation... that undermine the confidence of Georgia voters."
"Having the Secretary of State's office accept this funding and distribute the benefits fairly around the state—rather than having donations go to the donor's preferred county elections boards—was endorsed by the Republican legislature as part of SB 202," Jones continued.
The group received a total of $69 million from Zuckerberg. According to CEIR, they "provided states nearly $65 million, which they used to bolster their voter education efforts in a variety of ways."
It is unclear how the remaining $4 million was spent.
Raffensperger praised the organization as having "the greatest minds that the country has to offer," arguing that their funding played a key role in ensuring election integrity in the state of Georgia.
President Joe Biden carried the state of Georgia by a margin of less than 12,000 votes in the 2020 presidential election, a state which his opponent, Donald Trump, won by more than 200,000 votes only four years earlier.
While the Trump campaign alleged that fraud may have played a role in securing Biden's victory in the state, no alleged evidence of such fraud was ever upheld by the courts. A statewide audit and hand recount resulted in Biden's margin of victory diminishing by over 1,000 votes, but was not enough to swing the results in Trump's favour.
Nevertheless, the Republican-dominated Georgia legislature passed an election reform bill in the aftermath of the election. While Republicans have argued that such legislation is necessary to ensure election integrity, Democrats have complained that the law amounts to voter suppression, with some high-profile Democrats, including President Biden, comparing the measures to Jim Crow laws.