Non-profit

National Vote at Home Institute

Website:

www.voteathome.org

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

82-5515680

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2020):

Revenue: $8,005,672
Expenses: $6,368,984
Assets: $2,511,236

Vote At Home, a trade name for the National Vote at Home Institute and its affiliated National Vote at Home Coalition, is an advocacy organization that pushes for a nationwide vote-by-mail electoral system. [1] The National Vote at Home Institute is the 501(c)(3) educational arm of Vote At Home; the National Vote At Home Coalition it the lobbying arm. The National Vote at Home Institute works to promote the benefits of a vote-from-home system[2] and the National Vote at Home Coalition works to lobby on behalf of a mail-balloting system through the regulatory and legislative processes. [3]

In its 2019 annual report, Vote at Home outlined its 2020 plans which included “flooding the zone” efforts in key states to expand the use and acceptance of vote-from-home policies. [4] While its claims that vote-by-mail policies are non-partisan,[5] Vote at Home is a partner of a number of progressive and left-of-center organizations, including Democracy Fund, Common Cause, Nonprofit VOTE, and Rock the Vote. [6] It is also a partner of Unite America. [7]

The group is part of Field Team 6, a coalition of lobbying and state election advocacy organizations working towards registering more Democrat voters within key swing states and counties before the 2022 Midterm Elections. [8]

Activism

2020 Election

During the 2020 election, National Vote At Home founder Amber McReynolds provided consulting to various state- and county-level governments on implementing mail-in ballots.

In a report sent to the Board of Commissioners in DeKalb County, Georgia, in May 2020, McReynolds called for “purchas[ing] and install[ing] a modern, updated security system with badge access, control logs, and remotely accessed cameras” and “adding cameras to all work areas that can be accessed by appropriate management staff.” [9]

McReynolds also urged California to implement similar measures. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla praised McReynolds and her colleagues, saying that “their expertise will be invaluable as we work together to meet this moment and keep elections running smoothly during this challenging time.” [10]

Time magazine reported that McReynolds maintained regular correspondence with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office during the 2020 election. [11] The state of Georgia has since adopted several of Vote at Home’s key recommendations, including “a new online portal for voters to request absentee ballots, expanded absentee ballot drop boxes, ballot tracking so that voters can follow their ballot’s progress and, crucially, a rule change that allowed county election workers to begin processing absentee ballots 15 days before Election Day.” [12]

On January 6, 2020, National Vote at Home Institute collaborated with the Center for Civic Design and the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) on three webinars about voting by mail. The webinars were entitled “Implementing envelope best practices,” “Preparing helpful supplementary materials,” and “Integrating low-cost tracking and reporting tools.” The webinars aimed to educate election officials  on helping  constituents vote by mail. The webinars covered topics such as mail ballots and envelopes, adapting national templates for local needs, the best ways to prioritize information to give to voters, and tools for tracking ballots. [13]

Wisconsin

In March 2021, an investigation by the Wisconsin Spotlight, a project of the right-leaning Empower Wisconsin Foundation, revealed that Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, the Wisconsin state lead for the National Vote at Home Institute, worked as a “grant advisor” for the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). As a grant advisor, Spitzer Rubenstein leveraged the conditions attached to the grantmaking to exert potentially illegal influence on the administration of elections in Wisconsin’s five largest cities. [14]

Emails obtained by the Wisconsin Spotlight, showed that CTCL connected multiple city election administrators to Spitzer-Rubenstein before the election, and that he rapidly became the “de facto elections chief,” in many of these cities, particularly in the city of Green Bay.[15]

In the emails, Spitzer-Rubenstein, who has a history of working for Democratic campaigns, asked former Green Bay city clerk Kris Teske if he could help to correct or “cure” absentee ballots with missing signatures or addresses. When Teske denied the request on the grounds of its questionable legality, Spitzer-Rubenstein followed up with Green Bay’s Democratic mayor who pressured Teske to meet with Spitzer-Rubenstein and allow him to help “cure” absentee ballots. Spitzer-Rubenstein tried to assuage Teske’s concerns by assuring her that he had helped write the ballot curing rules for the city of Milwaukee as well. [16]

Teske complained several times to her superiors that the “grant advisors” did not know Wisconsin’s election laws, that their involvement was likely illegal, and that her concerns were not being taken seriously. Following the unanswered complaints, Teske announced a leave of absence, and submitted her resignation shortly thereafter.[17]

In Teske’s absence, Spitzer-Rubenstein was given control over Green Bay’s election process. Emails show that Spitzer-Reubenstein helped to decide the specifics of ballot handling and transportation rules and had access to the KI Convention Center, where ballots were counted, two days before the election. Emails from the former Brown County Clerk, Sandy Juno, show that Spitzer-Rubenstein was even given four of the five keys to the room where ballots were stored “several days before the election.” As the Wisconsin Spotlight describes it “The city of Green Bay literally gave the keys to the election to a Democratic Party operative from New York.” [18]

Juno, too, raised concerns about Spitzer-Rubenstein’s unfettered access to the Green Bay election process. Juno later told the Wisconsin Elections Commission that she believed the central count location at the KI Convention Center “was tainted by the influence of a person working for an outside organization affecting the election.” Juno also claimed that, in the months before the election, Green Bay had totally broken off communications with the Brown County Clerk’s Office, and “went rogue.” Immediately following the election, Juno retired from her position in January 2021.[19]

Other emails, also obtained by the Wisconsin Spotlight, show that Spitzer-Rubenstein contacted the city of Wuawatosa’s interim county clerk, Cindi Dluaney, to connect her with Natalia Espina, a Wisconsin leader for Power the Polls, a left-leaning poll worker recruitment group. Espina also serves as the operations director at Voces de la Frontera, a Wisconsin based left-of-center immigration advocacy group.[20]

Michigan

In March 2022, reports surfaced that the National Vote at Home Institute had worked directly with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and advised her on how to circumvent the state legislature and liberally interpret absentee voting rules well-before the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic, which boosted the use of absentee ballots, had actually begun. [21]

Emails between National Vote at Home Institute executive director Amber McReynolds and Benson showed that McReynolds communicated often with Benson and had scheduled multiple meetings with her to discuss Michigan election rules in 2019. Emails from McReynolds described an apparent loop-hole in Michigan elections law which McReynolds claimed would help Benson’s “implementation strategy” for broadening the use of absentee and mail-in ballots in 2020. McReynolds informed Benson that she believed that the wording of certain election laws had “left open the possibility of permanent or election specific absentee requests.” “To me, this means that you do not likely need a legislative change because I do not believe the language below limits your ability to offer voters two options to sign-up,” McReynolds wrote. Benson responded to the email, thanking McReynolds for the suggestion, and expressing interest in the idea while connecting McReynolds with her legal and policy advisors. [22]

Controversies and Criticism

Illegal Campaign Intervention Lawsuit (2022)

On September 22, 2022, the right-leaning watchdog group Center for Renewing America filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) alleging that the National Vote at Home Institute had violated rules prohibiting 501(c)(3) nonprofits from intervening in elections in 2020. The center’s complaint suggests that Zuckerberg and Chan may have contributed to National Vote at Home Institute and asks the IRS to investigate that claim. The complaint also extended to two related nonprofits, the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) and Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), and asked the IRS to investigate and strip all three nonprofits of their tax exemption. [23]

The same day, the Center for Renewing America also filed a complaint with the IRS against Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, alleging that they had taken “improper charitable contribution deductions” on the roughly $400 million in total that the couple donated to CTCL and CEIR in 2020, since the latter nonprofits had used the funds to engage in unlawful electioneering and were therefore liable to lose their tax exemption. [24] The center wrote:

The very genesis of the Zuckerbucks program also shows that it violates Section 501(c)(3) because it was designed to benefit the personal financial interests of Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan by avoiding any adverse financial consequences of staying out of the 2020 election.

Specifically . . . the Zuckerbucks program was conceived to offset the supposed damage the couple did to American politics in 2016 by passively allowing Facebook to be used to elect a Republican President.

The Center for Renewing America argues that, although there were no laws specifically prohibiting CTCL and CEIR from making COVID-19 “relief grants” to secretaries of state and county elections offices in the lead-up to the 2020 election, those activities still fell outside of the IRS’ definition of the “charitable activities” that 501(c)(3) public charities may lawfully engage in. The group wrote: [25]

[T]he pattern of Zuckerbucks spending and how these organizations targeted, penetrated into, and harvested data out of local election offices clearly operated as a de facto get-out-the-vote effort for the Democrat party. As such, under [existing law] . . . these organizations cannot qualify for a tax exemption.

. . .

Even if CTCL, NVAHI [National Vote at Home Institute], and CEIR each operated for some charitable purpose, none of them operated exclusively for such a purpose.

It concludes: [26]

In light of the fact that CTCL, NVAHI [National Vote at Home Institute], and CEIR have collectively spent hundreds of millions of dollars on their purpose of revolutionizing the way America votes in order to shift the outcome toward Democrats in key battleground States in 2020 — activities that constituted political campaign intervention and were not in furtherance of any exempt purpose — we urge the IRS to investigate whether these three organizations Section 501(c)(3) statuses should be revoked.

Leadership

Amber McReynolds is the chief executive officer of both the National Vote At Home Institute and the National Vote At Home Coalition. [27] McReynolds previously served as the Director of Elections for Denver, Colorado where she helped write legislation that created same-day election registration and a statewide vote-by-mail system. [28] McReynolds serves on the board of RepresentWomen, a left-leaning organization that advocates for increased female representation in elected office. [29]

Philip Keisling serves as chair and director of both the Vote At Home Institute[30] and the National Vote At Home Coalition. [31] Keisling, a Democrat, previously served as Oregon Secretary of State and in the Oregon House of Representatives. [32] During his time as Secretary of State, Keisling oversaw state elections and helped to usher in the first vote-by-mail system in the United States. [33] In addition to supporting vote-from-home,[34]Keisling also supports ranked-choice voting and state-run, taxpayer funded primary elections. [35]

Stephen Silberstien, a member of the liberal mega-donor group Democracy Alliance, sits on the board of Vote at Home. [36] Silberstein was a top-20 donor to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s super PAC, Priorities USA Action,[37] and also sits on the board of National Popular Vote, a group which aims to implement a national plurality-at-large election of the President of the United States. [38]

Policy Positions

Vote at Home claims that a vote-from-home electoral system is more secure than traditional elections because it reduces the chance of voter fraud. The organization also argues that voting by mail costs less than traditional elections and that it results in higher voter turnout. [39]

In March 2020 during an outbreak of pandemic novel coronavirus and COVID-19 disease, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill which would provide $500 million in federal funding to help states set up emergency vote-by-mail systems. Discussing this legislation and how the crisis may negatively impact the 2020 election, Vote At Home president and CEO Amber McReynolds said that a shift to vote-by-mail before the November general election would require state officials to expand their role in handling ballots but that “The logistics involved in that…would crush local elections offices.” [40] On the same topic, McReynolds has also said that states considering moving to a vote-by-mail system should streamline the process by receiving ballots at a central location and by providing drop boxes to voters with accessibility issues. [41]

Resources

Vote At Home supplies a number of resources on vote-from-home polices, including a state-by-state guide for applying for a mailed-out ballot,[42] a 2020 presidential election primary app, [43] as well as a reference library. [44]

References

  1. “About Us.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/about/ ^
  2. Internal Revenue Service. Form 990, National Vote At Home Institute. 2018. https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2018/825/515/2018-825515680-10f6dc6b-9.pdf ^
  3. Internal Revenue Service. Form 990, National Vote At Home Coalition. 2018. https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2018/822/944/2018-822944257-1137577e-9O.pdf ^
  4. “2019 Annual Report.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/VAH-Annual-report-2019-v-1.0.pdf ^
  5. “Winter 2019/Winter 2020.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/VAH-intro-flyer.pdf ^
  6. “About Us.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/about/ ^
  7. “Vote By Mail.” Unite America. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.uniteamerica.org/strategy/vote-by-mail ^
  8. “Mission.” FieldTeam6. Accessed April 12, 2022. https://www.fieldteam6.org/mission. ^
  9. Amber McReynolds, Jennifer Morrell, Noah Praetz. “Recommendations: DeKalb County Voter Registration & Elections.” DeKalb County Board of County Commissioners. May 29, 2020. Accessed July 6, 2021. https://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/sites/default/files/Election%20Group%20DeKalb%20Final%20Report-April%202020.pdf ^
  10. “Secretary of State’s Office Bringing on Expert Consultants to Help with Vote-by-Mail Expansion for General Election.” AP20:046 SOS Office Bringing on Expert Consultants to help with VBM Expansion for General Election :: California Secretary of State. Accessed June 24, 2021. https://www.sos.ca.gov/administration/news-releases-and-advisories/2020-news-releases-and-advisories/ap20046-sos-office-bringing-expert-consultants-help-vote-mail-expansion-general-election. ^
  11. Abrams, Abigail. “Amber McReynolds Is Helping the Country Vote-By-Mail in 2020.” Time. Time, October 20, 2020. https://time.com/5901694/amber-mcreynolds-vote-by-mail-2020-election/. ^
  12. Abrams, Abigail. “Amber McReynolds Is Helping the Country Vote-By-Mail in 2020.” Time. Time, October 20, 2020. https://time.com/5901694/amber-mcreynolds-vote-by-mail-2020-election/. ^
  13. “Watch Now: Free Vote at Home Webinars for Election Officials.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, May 22, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/vote-at-home/. ^
  14. Kittle, M.D. “Special Investigation: Infiltrating the Election.” Wisconsin Spotlight. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://wisconsinspotlight.com/special-investigation-infiltrating-the-election/. ^
  15. Kittle, M.D. “Special Investigation: Infiltrating the Election.” Wisconsin Spotlight. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://wisconsinspotlight.com/special-investigation-infiltrating-the-election/. ^
  16. Kittle, M.D. “Special Investigation: Infiltrating the Election.” Wisconsin Spotlight. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://wisconsinspotlight.com/special-investigation-infiltrating-the-election/. ^
  17. Kittle, M.D. “Special Investigation: Infiltrating the Election.” Wisconsin Spotlight. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://wisconsinspotlight.com/special-investigation-infiltrating-the-election/. ^
  18. Kittle, M.D. “Special Investigation: Infiltrating the Election.” Wisconsin Spotlight. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://wisconsinspotlight.com/special-investigation-infiltrating-the-election/. ^
  19. Kittle, M.D. “Special Investigation: Infiltrating the Election.” Wisconsin Spotlight. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://wisconsinspotlight.com/special-investigation-infiltrating-the-election/. ^
  20. “Wauwatosa in ZUCKERBERG’S WEB.” Wisconsin Spotlight. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://wisconsinspotlight.com/wauwatosa-in-zuckerbergs-web/. ^
  21. “Exclusive: Zuckerberg Nonprofit Helped Shift Michigan’s 2020 Voting Rules.” The Federalist, March 25, 2022. https://thefederalist.com/2022/03/25/exclusive-zuckerberg-connected-nonprofit-helped-shift-michigans-2020-voting-rules/. ^
  22. “Exclusive: Zuckerberg Nonprofit Helped Shift Michigan’s 2020 Voting Rules.” The Federalist, March 25, 2022. https://thefederalist.com/2022/03/25/exclusive-zuckerberg-connected-nonprofit-helped-shift-michigans-2020-voting-rules/. ^
  23. IRS complaint filed against Center for Technology and Civic Life, National Vote at Home Institute, Center for Election Innovation and Research. Center for Renewing America. Filed Sept. 22, 2022. Accessed Sept. 27, 2022. https://americarenewing.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Entities-Complaint-v.2.pdf ^
  24. IRS complaint against Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. Center for Renewing America. Filed Sept. 22, 2022. Accessed Sept. 27, 2022. https://americarenewing.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Individuals-Complaint-v.2.pdf ^
  25. Hayden Ludwig. “New IRS Complaint Alleges ‘Zuck Bucks’ Groups’ Illegal Partisanship in 2020 Election.” Capital Research Center. Sept. 26, 2022. Accessed Sept. 27, 2022. https://capitalresearch.org/article/new-irs-complaint-alleges-zuck-bucks-groups-illegal-partisanship-in-2020-election/ ^
  26. Hayden Ludwig. “New IRS Complaint Alleges ‘Zuck Bucks’ Groups’ Illegal Partisanship in 2020 Election.” Capital Research Center. Sept. 26, 2022. Accessed Sept. 27, 2022. https://capitalresearch.org/article/new-irs-complaint-alleges-zuck-bucks-groups-illegal-partisanship-in-2020-election/ ^
  27. “About Us.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/about/ ^
  28. Fouriezos, Nick. “An Emerging Republican Champion for Voter Access.” Ozy. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.ozy.com/the-new-and-the-next/despite-getting-voted-out-this-colorado-republican-is-a-hope-for-voting-rights/94126/ ^
  29. “Board: Amber McReynolds.” RepresentWomen. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.representwomen.org/amber_mcreynolds ^
  30. Internal Revenue Service. Form 990, National Vote At Home Institute. 2018. https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2018/825/515/2018-825515680-10f6dc6b-9.pdf ^
  31. Internal Revenue Service. Form 990, National Vote At Home Coalition. 2018. https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2018/822/944/2018-822944257-1137577e-9O.pdf ^
  32. “Phil Keisling.” Portland State University Hatfiled School of Government. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.pdx.edu/cps/phil-keisling ^
  33. Jaquiss, Nigel. The New York Times Highlights Phil Keisling’s Work to Strengthen Democracy, Now Copied By Other States.” Williamette Week. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.wweek.com/news/2019/12/24/the-new-york-times-highlights-phil-keislings-work-to-strengthen-democracy-now-copied-by-other-states/ ^
  34. Keisling, Phil. “Vote from Home, Save Your Country.” Washington Monthly. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/janfeb-2016/vote-from-home-save-your-country/ ^
  35. Keisling, Phil. “3 Keys to a Far Better Way of Choosing Presidential Nominees.” Governing Magazine. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.governing.com/columns/smart-mgmt/col-presidential-primaries-caucuses-vote-by-mail-ranked-choice-voting.html ^
  36. “About Us.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/about/ ^
  37. Iacob, Ivona. “The Top Donors Backing Hillary Clinton’s Super PAC.” Forbes. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ivonaiacob/2016/05/27/top-donors-hillary-clinton-superpac/#75295a8c4105 ^
  38. “Our Partners.” Unite America. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.uniteamerica.org/partners ^
  39. “About Us.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/about/ ^
  40. Timberg, Craig. “Voting by mail, already on the rise, may get a $500 million federal boost from coronavirus fears.” The Washington Post. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/03/10/mail-voting-coronavirus-bill/ ^
  41. Opilo, Emily. “Maryland officials considering preparations for election by mail in response to coronavirus outbreak.” The Baltimore Sun. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.baltimoresun.com/coronavirus/bs-md-pol-ga-coronavirus-maryland-election-vote-mail-20200311-b54b3nqqvfgwthic4vbrtcr4c4-story.html ^
  42. “Applying for a Mailed-out Ballot, A State-by-State Guide.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/NVAHI-Guide-to-When_How-to-Apply-2020.pdf ^
  43. “2020 Presidential Primary Election Guide to Mail-Ballot Voting.” Democracy Labs. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://ci8np.glideapp.io/ ^
  44. “Reference Library.” Vote At Home. Accessed March 15, 2020. https://www.voteathome.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/NVAHI-Reference-Library.pdf ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 2019

  • 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
    2020 Dec Form 990 $8,005,672 $6,368,984 $2,511,236 $283,633 N $8,000,672 $5,000 $0 $183,496
    2019 Dec Form 990 $1,113,465 $558,962 $647,865 $56,950 N $1,098,465 $15,000 $0 $200,184 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $226,000 $143,239 $82,761 $0 N $226,000 $0 $0 $53,832 PDF

    National Vote at Home Institute

    PO BOX 65752
    WASHINGTON, DC 20035-5752