Muscogee County Elections Office grabs a chunk of Zuckerberg cash to offset COVID costs, pay poll workers

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How would you like to find $412,000 dollars? 

The Muscogee County Office of Elections and Registrations did just that recently. 

And this money has come from an unusual source. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Pricillia Chan, put up $300 million for elections offices across the nation to tap into. 

The money has come at an opportune time for Muscogee County Director of Elections and Registration Nancy Boren. And it will help supplement a $900,000 operating budget as she deals with COVID and tries to expand voting opportunities for Muscogee County voters.

“It was a great opportunity,” Boren said. “I saw through the Center for Tech and Civic life the opportunity to apply for a grant with no matching funds from city government. I thought it would be a great opportunity for us here in the city to be able to do what we need to do to be able to help voters and to be able to help our staff and recognize the importance of the voting process.” 

It almost sounded too good to be true. Millions of dollars for local election officials dealing with COVID and budget issues going into a contentious election. 

And that’s what Boren and her colleagues across the state originally thought. 

“So, the reaction of all of us is that it did indeed fall out of the sky,” Boren said. “We were not expecting the ability to do the things we can do prior to this November 3rd huge election.”  

The grant money came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a non-profit that got a $300 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chin. 

Boren got the funds last week and is already using the money.  

As a result, more people in Muscogee County will access to in-person advance voting.  

“All of the advance voting sites will be funded through this grant,” Boren said. “We are opening four for the last week of advance voting. We will have 80 people in the field. And we will have 180 machines in the field for voters to cast their ballot where normally, we would only have 22 that last week of advance voting. That is huge and will allow for social distancing, for protection of voters if they chose to vote early voting. And it will keep our workers safe, also.” 

And Columbus election workers will receive hazard duty pay thinks to a grant secured last week. 

“Every poll worker who works election day will receive $75 in addition to your regular pay.” 

Almost a quarter of the grant money will used to supplement election workers because they are essential. And it’s welcomed. 

“I think it should be labeled essential because of the work we do,” Davis said. “You know, we have to get people registered. We have to get their addresses changes in. Things of that sort, ensure that they get absentee ballots and make sure they are able to vote on election day.” 

Other counties in Georgia have received this money. Richmond got $386.000. Fulton got $6.2 million, Cobb $5.8. Even tiny Randolph County got $8,000 dollars. 

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