Non-profit

Center for Election Innovation & Research

Website:

electioninnovation.org/

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax ID:

81-3815137

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $277,800
Expenses: $77,461
Assets: $278,400

Executive Director:

David Becker

Type:

Electoral reform nonprofit

Formation:

2016

Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) is an electoral policy advocacy group which provides grants and conducts research to increase voting security and increase voter turnout. The organization was created in the wake of the 2016 election in response to foreign interference and alleged low voter turnout; in 2020, it took specific action to counter the effects of the pandemic coronavirus on the general elections. [1]

In August 2020, Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced they were donating $50 million to CEIR, a sum 50 times larger than the organization’s 2017 revenues.

Activity

Grants

The Center for Election Innovation and Research provides grants to state governments to increase the efficiency and voter turnout for elections. The group’s 2020 election priorities, which focused on combatting impacts from the pandemic coronavirus, included:[2]

  • Informing voters about registration and deadlines
  • Mail voting
  • Early voting
  • Polling locations and hours
  • Vote counting updates

Research

CEIR primarily conducts research on voter security. In August 2020, CEIR released its Voter Registration Database Security report which warned of impending electoral interference from Russia, China, and Iran, but commended most states for implementing double-factor authentication in their voter security. [3]

On August 20, 2020, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) published a research paper by executive director David Becker speculating on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2020 election. Becker predicts that the election will see the highest voter turnout in over a century (up to 65%) but only if state governments make significant efforts to increase access to mail-ballot voting and protect in-person voting from COVID-19. [4] However, in June 2020, Becker expressed surprise at historically low voter registration levels during the first half of 2020, which he attributed to impacts from COVID-19. [5]

Media

Becker and other CEIR personnel are regularly interviewed by media outlets on election matters. In a September 2018 article from Wired, Becker highlighted vulnerabilities in voting machines, particularly to hacking. [6] In a November 2018 Politifact article, Becker rejected claims of widespread voting by illegal immigrants. [7] In a September 2019 NBC News article, Becker cited a CEIR study which found that 40% of voters will believe that an election is unfair if their candidate loses. [8]

Leadership

The Center for Election Innovation and Research was founded in 2016 by David Becker. From 1998 to 2005, Becker was a trial lawyer in the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division. [9] There he served as lead trial counsel in Georgia v. Ashcroft, an eventual Supreme Court case concerning alleged gerrymandering of senatorial districts to restrict Black voting power. [10] Becker won the case by successfully arguing that the Georgia Senate did not adequately account for disparate impacts on racial minorities, thereby violating the Voting Rights Act. [11]

In 2005, when Becker was still a trial lawyer in the Civil Rights Division, a formal complaint was made against Becker after he contacted the city of Boston offering to help defeat a lawsuit opened against them by his employer, the DOJ, for voting infractions. Brad Scholzman, acting head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division at the time, stated, “It was the most unethical thing I’ve ever seen” and called Becker “a hard-core leftist” who “Couldn’t stand conservatives.” [12]

Hans von Spakovsky, who worked as counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, agreed with Scholzman’s characterization of Becker. “In his role with the DOJ, he was supposed to be non-partisan, but his emails uncovered in the Boston investigation revealed nasty, disparaging remarks about Republicans. Very unethical and unprofessional.” Becker did not deny these claims when asked for comment by Legal Newsline. “There was no action taken against me by the Department of Justice as a result of this complaint,” he answered, dismissing the complaint as irrelevant. [13]

While as of September 2020 he did not list it on his LinkedIn profile nor in his CEIR biography, Becker was a senior staff attorney at the People For the American Way (PFAW) in 2006 before becoming the director of PFAW’s Democracy Campaign in 2007. [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] PFAW is a left-of-center activist group that promotes a policy agenda featuring public funding of abortion providers, amnesty, and government funded healthcare, seeks to expand liberal control of the judiciary, and helps to elect liberal political candidates.

In 2008, Becker became the director of election initiatives at Pew Charitable Trusts. At Pew, Becker started the Electronic Registration and Information Center (ERIC), a voter registration and sharing system between 30 states which has corrected 4 million voter registrations[20] and registered millions of new voters. [21]

Zuckerberg Donation

In early September 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced they were personally donating $300 million to nonprofits which support voter protection efforts. The pair are giving $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a left-of-center election reform group, and $50 million to Center for Election Innovation and Research. [22] Though the donation’s structure has not been revealed, the sum is more than 50 times CEIR’s 2017 revenues. [23] In a statement, CEO David Becker said CIER will use the money to increase the scale of its existing operations. [24]

Critics like Democratic strategist Tara McGowan have claimed that Zuckerberg is attempting to buy public goodwill with the donation after Facebook was accused of facilitating electoral problems by permitting offensive speech and serving as an unwitting platform for some forms of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. [25]

References

  1. “About CEIR.” Center for Election Innovation & Research. Accessed September 12, 2020.  https://electioninnovation.org/our-work/. ^
  2. “Apply for a Grant.” Center for Election Innovation & Research. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://electioninnovation.org/apply-for-a-grant/. ^
  3. “Voter Registration Security Database.” Center for Election Innovation & Research. August 2020. Accessed September 12, 2020. ^
  4. Becker, David. “Conducting Elections During a Pandemic.” SSRN. August 20, 2020. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3675846. ^
  5. Rogers, Kaleigh; Rakich, Nathaniel. “Voter Registrations are Way, Way Down During the Pandemic.” Fivethirtyeight. June 26, 2020. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/voter-registrations-are-way-way-down-during-the-pandemic/. ^
  6. Newman, Lily Hay. “Voting Machines are Still Absurdly Vulnerable to Attacks.” Wired. September 28, 2018. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.wired.com/story/voting-machine-vulnerabilities-defcon-voting-village/. ^
  7. Kruzel, John. “No evidence ‘many’ illegal immigrants voted in midterm elections, as Lou Dobbs says.” Politifact. November 16, 2018. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2018/nov/16/lou-dobbs/no-evidence-many-illegal-immigrants-voted-midterm-/. ^
  8. Popken, Ben. “Election security experts say hack of voters’ confidence may be biggest threat to 2020.” NBC News. September 21, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/election-security-experts-say-hack-voters-confidence-may-be-biggest-n1057246. ^
  9. “David Becker.” LinkedIn. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidjbecker/. ^
  10. “Secretary of State Launches Partnership with Nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research.” Georgia Secretary of State. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://sos.ga.gov/index.php/elections/secretary_of_state_launches_partnership_with_nonpartisan_center_for_election_innovation_and_research. ^
  11. “David Becker.” LinkedIn. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidjbecker/. ^
  12. Kennedy, W.J. “Mark Zuckerberg Beneficiaries Promoting Fair Elections Not Exactly Non-Partisan as Advertised,” September 30, 2020. https://legalnewsline.com/stories/555822683-mark-zuckerberg-beneficiaries-promoting-fair-elections-not-exactly-non-partisan-as-advertised. ^
  13. Kennedy, W.J. “Mark Zuckerberg Beneficiaries Promoting Fair Elections Not Exactly Non-Partisan as Advertised,” September 30, 2020. https://legalnewsline.com/stories/555822683-mark-zuckerberg-beneficiaries-promoting-fair-elections-not-exactly-non-partisan-as-advertised. ^
  14. “David Becker.” LinkedIn. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidjbecker/. ^
  15. “David Becker.” Accessed September 29, 2020. https://www.c-span.org/person/?davidbecker02. Archive: Screen Capture – CSPAN – David Becker ^
  16. “Senate to Investigate ‘Voter Fraud’ Fraud in Missouri.” People For the American Way. Accessed September 29, 2020. https://www.pfaw.org/press-releases/senate-to-investigate-voter-fraud-fraud-in-missouri/. Archive: Screen Capture – People For the American Way – David Becker. ^
  17. “Crawford v. Marion County.” The Federalist Society. Accessed September 29, 2020. https://fedsoc.org/commentary/publications/crawford-v-marion-county. Archive: Screen Capture – Federalist Society – David Becker debate. ^
  18. Becker, David J. “David J. Becker.” The Federalist Society. Accessed September 29, 2020. https://fedsoc.org/contributors/david-becker-1. Archive: Screen Capture – Federalist Society – David Becker bio. ^
  19. Vogel, Kenneth P. “Short of Money to Run Elections, Local Authorities Turn to Private Funds,” September 25, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/25/us/politics/elections-private-grants-zuckerberg.html. Archive: Screen Capture – New York Times – Short of Money to Run Elections, Local Authorities Turn to Private Funds. ^
  20. “Our Team.” Center for Election Innovation & Research. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://electioninnovation.org/who-we-are/our-team/. ^
  21. “About CEIR.” Center for Election Innovation & Research. Accessed September 12, 2020.  https://electioninnovation.org/our-work/. ^
  22. Schleifer, Theodore. “Mark Zuckerberg’s $300 million donation to protect elections must overcome Facebook’s past.” Vox. September 1, 2020. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/9/1/21417022/mark-zuckerberg-elections-300-million-facebook-center-for-tech-and-civic-life. ^
  23. “Legal Services Corporation Form 990.” ProPublica. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/813815137/06_2019_prefixes_75-81%2F813815137_201806_990_2019062816452245. ^
  24. Dier, Arden. “Zuckerberg, Chan Just Gave Huge Boost to Election Setup.” September 1, 2020. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.newser.com/story/295662/zuckerberg-chan-offer-300m-in-election-funding.html. ^
  25. Schleifer, Theodore. “Mark Zuckerberg’s $300 million donation to protect elections must overcome Facebook’s past.” Vox. September 1, 2020. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/9/1/21417022/mark-zuckerberg-elections-300-million-facebook-center-for-tech-and-civic-life. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

Donor Organizations

  1. Hopewell Fund (Non-profit)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 2017

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Jun Form 990 $277,800 $77,461 $278,400 $78,061 N $268,800 $9,000 $0 $50,458 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Center for Election Innovation & Research

    1120 Connecticut Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20036