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Grant to Georgia’s DeKalb County doesn’t amount to an elections ‘takeover’

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Some Republicans in 2020 criticized election officials nationwide for accepting grants linked to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. A new round of grants is drawing similar criticism, although Zuckerberg didn’t give money this time.

Georgia’s DeKalb County expects to receive $2 million from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit that offered grants in 2020.

The Federalist, a conservative website, published a Feb. 21 story headlined, “How Georgia Became Democrats’ Test Site For Their 2024 Private Takeover Of Election Offices.” Although the headline says “Georgia,” the story is about only one county, DeKalb.

The statement appeared on Facebook and it was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook.)

Does the $2 million grant for DeKalb County represent a “private takeover of election offices”? 

When we’ve fact-checked claims that a bill in Congress equals a “federal takeover” of an industry (such as health care), we’ve considered whether the measure calls for the government to assume total control of the sector. 

The Facebook post’s claim of a “takeover” of an elections office suggests that the nonprofit would control crucial tasks, such as in-person or mail-in voting operations. But we found no evidence of such a takeover in DeKalb, a left-leaning county. Local officials will continue to run elections based on state law requirements.

How DeKalb County applied for the grant 

In 2020, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, gave about $400 million to nonprofits (a spokesperson for the couple told PolitiFact they’re no longer funding election grants). Those nonprofits distributed the money to state and local election offices to help them cover the costs of running an election during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of those nonprofits, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, gave grants to cities and counties to cover staffing costs and for personal protective equipment and equipment that sorts absentee ballots.

The Federal Election Commission rejected claims that the donations were designed to help Democrats, and courts upheld the grants

After the 2020 general election, about half the states passed bans on private election funding, including Georgia.

Some Republicans have decried DeKalb’s application for a new grant. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in 2021 that Georgia’s ban has “a big loophole.”

“The law doesn’t ban outside donations to county governments, which could then allocate resources to their election boards. The law only affects direct payments to election offices,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Georgia’s State Election Board is investigating a complaint about the donation. The Senate voted in March in favor of a bill that bans outside funding and penalizes violations as a felony punishable by jail time. The bill also would retroactively require any county to return outside funding received in 2023 — a provision that targets DeKalb.

DeKalb hasn’t provided details about how it will use the grant money

Funds from the Center for Tech and Civic Life may be used to buy election equipment and technology, to run voting sites or offices and pay personnel. 

We found no details about how DeKalb plans to use the grant; county officials may not have decided how to spend the money in 2023-24.

A February document from a county government meeting states that the grant is to “cover certain expenses associated with planning and operationalizing safe and secure election administration infrastructure.” 

PolitiFact submitted a public records request to get more information from the county. A document by DeKalb states that it was seeking an “increase in operating budget, and upgrade & enhancements” of facilities.

Documents provided to PolitiFact do not suggest that the nonprofit will take over elections in DeKalb.

An agreement states that the nonprofit “will never attempt to influence the outcome of any election. Period.” It also states that partners will never touch “live ballots” — ballots that haven’t yet been counted or a ballot in a current election — or tabulating equipment, give legal advice or require the county to follow specific advice or recommendations.

DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry told PolitiFact that he would like the money to be used to launch a civic engagement office focused on voter education and communications on how and where to vote.

We asked Terry whether the Center for Tech and Civic Life will have any say over hiring election workers, buying equipment, operating in person voting sites or managing voting by mail. 

Those tasks are “wholly in the discretion” of the elected commissioners and election administrators, Terry said. 

A Center for Tech and Civic Life spokesperson told PolitiFact that the agency won’t run DeKalb’s elections.

Grants beyond DeKalb County

Communities in California, Illinois and Nevada have also been approved for grants.

The money comes from the Audacious Project, which convenes funders for a variety of causes, including the Center for Tech and Civic Life’s U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence

Private funding for elections is  only necessary because local and state governments and the federal government have failed to provide adequate funding for decades, said Rachel Orey, an election expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.–based think tank.

The grant to DeKalb County “is limited to covering core election infrastructure needs that benefit all voters, like election security improvements and new personnel, and in no way functions as a ‘takeover’ of the election office,” Orey said.

The Federalist article links to a report by the Honest Elections Project and the John Locke Foundation, two conservative groups that have criticized the grants. The report said jurisdictions are expected to submit an improvement plan for office operations and that members can receive guidance on staff recruitment and training. The report authors drew from records they obtained from two North Carolina counties.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed that a $2 million grant for DeKalb County amounts to a “private takeover of election offices.” 

DeKalb documents do not show exactly how the county plans to use the Center for Tech and Civic Life’s grant. But the county can use the money for equipment; voting and office sites; and personnel.

A “takeover” suggests that the center will be in charge of elections in DeKalb; we found no evidence to back that up. Local election officials will continue to administer elections based on state laws.

We rate this statement False. 

RELATED: ‘Zuckerbucks’ for 2022 elections? Republicans say thumbs down



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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again

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Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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