Non-profit

Center for Secure and Modern Elections

Website:

www.modernelections.org/

Formation:

2016

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections (CSME) is a left-advocacy organization created as a project of the left-progressive New Venture Fund to promote state laws that automatically register voters at state agencies. [1][2]

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections represents itself as a bipartisan organization but is funded primarily by left-of-center donors. [3] CSME parent organization, New Venture Fund, has been criticized as a “dark money” organization that serves as a way for left-leaning groups to anonymously funnel money toward various advocacy issues. [4]

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections primarily engages in advocacy and lobbying for laws called “automatic voter registration” (AVR) that automatically register people to vote when they acquire or renew a driver’s license, apply for social services, or otherwise interact with a state government agency.  The Center for Secure and Modern Elections has also opposed legislation intended to reduce voter fraud in Texas. [5]

Founding and History

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections was first active in 2016[6] and was receiving financial support from other left-leaning organizations by 2017,[7] but it is unclear when CSME was first established.  The IRS has no public records available for the Center for Secure and Modern Elections as of January 2020. The CSME’s parent organization, New Venture Fund, does not list CSME as a grant recipient on any IRS public disclosures as of January, 2020.

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections’ website provides no information regarding its staff, board of directors, founding, history, or relationship to New Venture Fund. [8]

Advocacy

Automatic Voter Registration

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections’ primary cause, automatic voter registration, differs from the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (the “Motor Voter Act”) by requiring qualified citizens be automatically registered to vote at state agencies  rather than simply being offered the opportunity to register. [9] In states with an AVR law, citizens are registered to vote unless they actively and explicitly refuse to be registered. Because they are registered automatically, citizens otherwise disinclined to vote are available to be persuaded to vote for candidates or causes in subsequent elections. [10]

The Center for Modern and Secure Elections has hired professional pollsters, consultants, attorneys, and lobbyists in many states as well as nationally to advance its automatic voter registration efforts. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

From 2017 through 2019, the Center for Secure and Modern Elections lobbied for automatic voter registration in Hawaii,[16] Nebraska,[17] New York,[18] Louisiana,[19] and Nevada. [20] CSME also collaborated with other left-progressive groups, participated in conferences, forums, and published reports[21] promoting automatic voter registration laws. [22] [23] [24] [25] [26]

Opposition to election security reforms

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections opposed legislation introduced in Texas in 2019 intended to improve election security. The legislation would have increased criminal penalties for providing false information on a voter registration application, increased the investigative powers of law enforcement over elections, and required those helping voters to fill out ballots to provide more information on what assistance they provide. [27] The Center for Secure and Modern Elections opposed the legislation, which was not enacted into law during the 2019 session. [28]

Voting Rights Tour

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections helped organize a ‘Voting Rights History Tour’ for a bipartisan group of elected secretaries of states in 2019. The tour of locations in Alabama with historical significance to voting laws was organized by the National Association of Secretaries of State, the left-leaning Ford Foundation, CSME, and two other left-progressive groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Democracy Fund. [29]

Funding

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections was established as a project of the left-leaning New Venture Fund, which has been criticized as a “dark money” organization that does not publicly disclose donors. [30] No information about the Center for Secure and Modern Elections is available on the IRS website for public inspection as of January, 2020. [31]

Several left-progressive organizations acknowledge supporting the CSME, including the Bauman Foundation, and the Democracy Fund, which is also a project of New Venture Fund. [32] [33]

People

The Center for Secure and Modern Elections does not list its leadership, board of directors, or staff on its website. [34] Information about a nonprofit organization’s board and key staff is required by the Internal Revenue Service for tax forms which are available for public inspection, but the IRS has no documents available on its website for the Center for Secure and Modern Elections as of January 2020. [35]

Jake Matilsky

Jake Matilsky is director or president of the Center for Secure and Modern Elections. [36] [37] He is also an advisor for Vote At Home[38] (a labor-union funded[39] campaign to replace voting at polling stations with all-mail elections) and an independent consultant for left-progressive candidates and campaigns. [40] He donated to U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in 2018; in FEC disclosures Matilsky listed his employer as New Venture Fund. [41]

John Lindback

John Lindback is senior advisor for the Campaign for Secure and Modern Elections. He was director of elections for Oregon’s secretary of state office for eight years and was chief of staff for former Alaska Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer (D). [42] [43]

Sam Oliker-Friedland

Sam Oliker-Friedland is chief counsel for the Campaign for Secure and Modern Elections. He is a former attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division who joined the department during the Obama administration and left after the election President Donald Trump. [44] [45]

Ashish Sinha

Ashish Sinha is implementation director for the Campaign for Secure and Modern Elections. He donated to Val Arkoosh, an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district, in 2014. [46] [47]

References

  1. Center for Secure and Modern Elections. Modernelections.org. “Careers”. “Director of implementation”. “New Venture Fund careers”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.modernelections.org/downloads/director-of-implementation2019-06-17.pdf ^
  2. Democracy Fund. Democracyfund.org. “Impact”. “Our Investees”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.democracyfund.org/portfolio/entry/center-for-secure-and-modern-elections ^
  3. Center for Secure and Modern Elections. Modernelections.org. “What we do”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://modernelections.org/what-we-do.html ^
  4. Markay, Lachlan. “Over 100 Left-Wing Groups Sourced to DC Dark Money Outfit”. Washington Free Beacon. October 22, 2015. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/issues/over-100-left-wing-groups-sourced-to-d-c-dark-money-outfit/ ^
  5. “Prominent Republican speaks out against Texas bill to punish voter registration errors”. The Fulcrum. May 9, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://thefulcrum.us/criminalizing-texas-voter-registration ^
  6. “The 2016 Elections + Nonpartisan Grantmaking”. Funders Committee for Civic Participation. Funderscommittee.org. January 11, 2016. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://funderscommittee.org/2016-annual-report-table-of-contents/2016-virtual-discussions/the-2016-elections-nonpartisan-grantmaking/ ^
  7. The Bauman Foundation. Baumanfoundation.org. “Grantees”. “New Venture Fund”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.baumanfoundation.org/grantee/119?order=amount&sort=desc ^
  8. Center for Secure and Modern Elections. Modernelections.org. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://modernelections.org/index.html ^
  9. “About the National Voter Registration Act”. The United States Department of Justice. Justice.gov. Civil Rights Division home. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.justice.gov/crt/about-national-voter-registration-act ^
  10. Griffin,Rob; Gronke, Paul; Wang, Tova; Kennedy, Liz. “Who Votes With Automatic Voter Registration? “Center for American Progress. Americanprogress.org. “Issues”. “Democracy and Government”. June 7, 2017..  Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2017/06/07/433677/votes-automatic-voter-registration/ ^
  11. Patkintin Research Strategies. Patinkinresearch.com. “Success Stories”. Accessed January 13, 2020. http://www.patinkinresearch.com/ ^
  12. Civitas Public Affairs Group. Civitaspublicaffairs.com. “Some of our clients”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://civitaspublicaffairs.com/ ^
  13. Joanna Klonsky Communication Strategies. Joannaklonsky.com. “Clients”.Accessed January 12, 2020. http://joannaklonsky.com/ ^
  14. Gingerich, Jon. “Advocacy Group Appoints Lobbyists in Fight for Trans Rights”. O’Dwyer’s.Odwyerpr.com. January 9, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.odwyerpr.com/story/public/11854/2019-01-09/advocacy-group-appoints-lobbyists-fight-for-trans-rights.html ^
  15. “Minutes of the Committee on Ethics and Elections”. Michigan House of Representatives. March 22, 2018. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://mirsnews.com/pdfs/committeemeetings/03-22-2018%20-%20House%20Elections%20and%20Ethics%20-%20Minutes.pdf ^
  16. Blair, Chad. “Minimum Wage And Marijuana: What To Expect In The 2019 Hawaii Legislature”. Honolulu Civil Beat. January 10, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/01/minimum-wage-and-marijuana-what-to-expect-in-the-2019-hawaii-legislature/ ^
  17. McLarty, Bri. “AVR: Small step with a big impact”. Civicnebraska.org. January 31, 2017. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.civicnebraska.org/avr-small-step-with-a-big-impact/ ^
  18. “Let NY Vote Coalition Storms Albany for First-Ever Hearing on Automatic Voter Registration”. readMedia. Posted by Common Cause of New York. May 30, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020. http://readme.readmedia.com/Let-NY-Vote-Coalition-Storms-Albany-for-First-Ever-Hearing-on-Automatic-Voter-Registration/16398278 ^
  19. “Minutes of Meeting 2018 Regular Session”. State of Louisiana House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs. April 17, 2018.  Accessed January 13, 2020. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_CmteRecordRolCallVotes/Minutes/2018/H&G%20MINUTES%20041718.pdf ^
  20. Miller, Shannon. “Inquest to automatically register voters at DMV, permits that allow undocumented residents to drive prove a hang-up”. The Nevada Independent. October 31, 2019.  Accessed January 13, 2020. https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/in-quest-to-automatically-register-voters-at-dmv-permits-that-allow-undocumented-residents-to-drive-prove-a-hang-up ^
  21. Common Cause. Commoncause.org. “Our Work”. “Research and Reports”. “Delivering on Automatic Voter Registration’s Promise: Implementation Lessons from the States”. “Experts”.  June 1, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.commoncause.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/AVRWhitePaper_WEB.pdf ^
  22. “Video: How automated verification & registration works”. Movement Advancement Project. Lgbtmap.org. “Policy”. “Voting Policy”. “Video created by Center for Secure and Modern Elections”. Accessed January 13, 2020. http://www.lgbtmap.org/video-how-automated-verification-registration-works ^
  23. Center for Civic Design. Civicdesign.org. “About”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://civicdesign.org/about/ ^
  24. Funder’s Committee for Civic Participation. Funderscommittee.org. “The 2016 Elections + Nonpartisan Grantmaking”. “Speakers”. January 11, 2016. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://funderscommittee.org/2016-annual-report-table-of-contents/2016-virtual-discussions/the-2016-elections-nonpartisan-grantmaking/ ^
  25. Election Sciences Reform and Administration Conference. Blogs.reed.edu. “Conference Agenda w/ Linked Presented Materials”. July 27, 2017.Accessed January 13, 2020. https://blogs.reed.edu/election-science/files/2017/07/ESRA_2017_Conference_Papers_For_Attendees.pdf ^
  26. “Tuning In & Turning Out Millennials are active but not voting; what’s stopping them and how can they make their voices count?” Common Cause. “Acknowledgments”. September 2016. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://selc.senate.ca.gov/sites/selc.senate.ca.gov/files/tuning-in_turning-out_common_cause_september_2016.pdf ^
  27. McGaughy, Lauren. “Controversial Texas voting bill likely dead this year after failing to be set for debate”. Dallas Morning News. May 19, 2019.  Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2019/05/20/controversial-texas-voting-bill-likely-dead-this-year-after-failing-to-be-set-for-debate/ ^
  28. Nowlin, Sanford. “Republican Elections Official Blasts Texas Bill That Would Make It a Felony to Incorrectly Fill Out a Voter Application”. San Antonio Current. May 7, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.sacurrent.com/the-daily/archives/2019/05/07/republican-elections-official-blasts-texas-bill-that-would-make-it-a-felony-to-incorrectly-fill-out-a-voter-application ^
  29. Powell, Adam. “Secretary of State to host voting rights tour in Selma”. Selma Times-Journal. May 6, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.selmatimesjournal.com/2019/05/06/secretary-of-state-to-host-voting-rights-tour-in-selma/ ^
  30. Markay, Lachlan. “Over 100 Left-Wing Groups Sourced to DC Dark Money Outfit”. Washington Free Beacon. October 22, 2015. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://freebeacon.com/issues/over-100-left-wing-groups-sourced-to-d-c-dark-money-outfit/ ^
  31. Internal Revenue Service. IRS.gov. “Charities and nonprofits”. “Tax Exempt Organization Search”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search ^
  32. The Bauman Foundation. Baumanfoundation.org. “Grantees”. “New Venture Fund”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.baumanfoundation.org/grantee/119?order=amount&sort=desc ^
  33. Democracy Fund. Democracyfund.org. “Impact”. “Our investees”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.democracyfund.org/portfolio ^
  34. Center for Secure and Modern Elections. Modernelections.org. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://modernelections.org/ ^
  35. Internal Revenue Service. IRS.gov. “Charities and nonprofits”. “Tax Exempt Organization Search”. Accessed January 13, 2020.  https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search ^
  36. Harvard Kennedy School. Harvard,edu. “Events”. “A Democracy Agenda: Conversations with Leaders in the Field [Session Four]”. “Speakers and Presenters” November 12, 2019.  Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.hks.harvard.edu/events/democracy-agenda-conversations-leaders-field-session-four ^
  37. Vote at Home. Voteathome.org. “About”. “Circle of advisors members”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/about/ ^
  38. Vote at Home. Voteathome.org. “About”. “Circle of advisors members”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/about/ ^
  39. Data compiled from U.S. Department of Labor Office of Labor-Management Standards from annual reports filed by labor unions. Queries conducted October 2, 2019. ^
  40. Linkedin. “Jake Matilsky”. Accessed January 13, 2020.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/jake-matilsky-04613024 ^
  41. Center For Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Donor lookup”. “Jacob Matilsky”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Jacob+Matilsky ^
  42. Chapin, Doug. “ElectionlineWeekly ‘Exit Interview’ With John Lindback”. Election Academy. August 4, 2017. Accessed January 13, 2020.  https://editions.lib.umn.edu/electionacademy/2017/08/04/electionlineweekly-exit-interview-with-john-lindback/ ^
  43. “We’re Still Asking: What Is Automatic Voter Registration? Just improved Motor-Voter?” National Conference of State Legislatures. Ncsl.org. May, 2019.  Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/the-canvass-may-2019.aspx ^
  44. Wang, Hansi Lo. “Judge Says Administration Can’t Change Lawyers In Census Citizenship Question Case”. National Public Radio. July 7, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020.  https://www.npr.org/2019/07/07/739369416/justice-department-changes-legal-team-behind-census-citizenship-question-case ^
  45. Miller, Shannon. “Inquest to automatically register voters at DMV, permits that allow undocumented residents to drive prove a hang-up”. The Nevada Independent. October 31, 2019.  Accessed January 13, 2020. https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/in-quest-to-automatically-register-voters-at-dmv-permits-that-allow-undocumented-residents-to-drive-prove-a-hang-up ^
  46. Ballotpedia.org. “Valerie Arkoosh”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://ballotpedia.org/Valerie_Arkoosh ^
  47. Center For Responsive Politics. Opensecrets.org. “Donor lookup”. “Ashish Sinha”. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Ashish+Sinha ^
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