President Trump appointed Christopher Krebs director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in 2018. Two years later, Krebs famously declared that this past presidential election was “the most secure election in American history.” This declaration infuriated President Trump, who has asserted with laughably little evidence that the election results were seriously tainted by fraud. Five days after this declaration, Trump fired Krebs. 

By all accounts, Krebs’ job performance was excellent and his declaration was accurate. Krebs’ declaration nonetheless puzzled people who remembered that the country’s registrars had collectively said that safeguarding the presidential vote from outside interference required congress to appropriate at least $4 billion. These monies were to be spent on upgrading voting machines, improving election cybersecurity and hiring and training additional staff to help cope with voter-related challenges. 

Democrats supported the registrars’ request but the Republican leadership limited the appropriation to $400 million. So, how did the registrars perform so well despite getting only 10 percent of their request from congress? The answer, we now learn, is that 2,500 local election offices received supplemental funds from an obscure Chicago nonprofit called The Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). 

This nonprofit amassed hundreds of millions of dollars from private donors to help local election offices, including $350 million from Mark Zuckerberg. A CTCL grant doubled a Pennsylvania county’s budget for voter services, for example. The county would have required a week longer to count ballots and would have experienced more unresolved voter errors without these supplemental funds. Zuckerberg’s contribution was implicit atonement for Facebook’s failure in the 2016 election to detect and stop a massive Russian-originated social media-based misinformation campaign that benefited Donald Trump. The CTCL supplemental funding enabled the eight most competitive battleground states to use voting machines that generated a paper record of every ballot, the gold standard proof against claims that vote counts were distorted by software errors. 

Georgia’s and Arizona’s Republican governors had no choice but to accept Biden’s unwelcome victories in their states because the evidence was incontrovertible, thanks to generous private donations to registrars intended to ensure election security.

William McCarthy

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