Palo Pinto County commissioners

A grant in the amount of $16,232 was approved to go toward Palo Pinto County election poll workers’ salaries Monday morning.

Palo Pinto County Elections Administrator Laura Watkins applied for the Center for Technology and Civic Life COVID-19 Response Grant. The program provides funding to U.S. local election offices to help ensure they have the critical resources they need to safely serve voters in 2020, according to a release from CTCL. As of Oct. 8, CTCL, which is a non-profit organization, had received more than 2,100 applications. The minimum grant amount awarded is $5,000.

The Palo Pinto County commissioners court heard from County Auditor Phyllis Banks about the grant during Monday’s regular meeting.

“This is the grant that [Watkins] applied for and it’s $16,232. I might add that four counties have been sued over this grant, so Laura was going to use it for poll workers’ salaries and equipment, and she’s decided to just use it for poll workers because that’s an expense we’re going to have regardless,” Banks said. “Because it’s other income from the nonprofit, it’s going to go in other income and it will be budgeted in her temporary part-time salary line item for her election workers.”

According to AP News, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated to the CTCL, which is based in Chicago.

“The CTCL is respected by election administrators in both parties. But it was founded by former staffers of a Democratic technology firm, and [in early October] Louisiana’s Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry moved to block 26 offices in his state from taking $7.8 million in funds,” according to the article. “A Republican legal group [in early October] also announced it has filed lawsuits in nine swing states […].”

According to The Texan — an Austin-based political news organization founded in 2019 by former state Senator Konni Burton — the Texas Voters Alliance filed a federal lawsuit around Oct. 9 targeting CTCL. The lawsuit claims that the grants violate federal election law and also cites that CTCL has targeted counties and cities with progressive voter patterns, claiming the grants are designed to help progressive candidates win.

Earlier this month, Parker County commissioners authorized County Judge Pat Deen to accept CTCL funds in the amount of $54,072. Elections administrator Crickett Miller applied for and received the grant from the nonprofit organization, which is to be used exclusively for planning and operating safe and secure election administration, Parker County Purchasing Agent Kim Rivas told commissioners.

According to The Texan, Dallas and Harris counties accepted grants of $15.1 million and $9.6 million from CTCL earlier this month, and Hays and Hopkins counties received grants of $299,000 and $19,952.

“Of the counties that have been sued, those are very large counties — millions and millions of dollars — and there might be some politics involved,” Palo Pinto County Judge Shane Long said during Monday’s meeting.

The motion of the certification and budgeting of the unanticipated revenue, $16,232, was unanimously approved by the Palo Pinto County commissioners court. 

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