At least four Maine communities have received funding from a national initiative by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to help local governments cover the increased cost of safely running their elections during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bangor City Council will vote Wednesday night on whether to accept a $272,104 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonpartisan group that is distributing $250 million in election funding from Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
The Queen City will use the funds to pay for extra solo voting booths, sanitation costs, worker pay and outreach to educate residents on how to safely register and vote this fall, according to City Councilor Ben Sprague.
Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodwin was not available to answer questions about the funds on Friday. The city expected to set aside about $89,000 to run elections this budget year, which began July 1. That amount represented a $12,000 increase from the previous year.
“We are grateful for the funds as they will really help offset some of our increased election costs this year,” Sprague said in a Facebook post.
Three other Maine communities that have been awarded funding from Zuckerberg’s initiative are the Knox County town of Union ($5,000), the Portland suburb of Scarborough ($8,724) and the city of Augusta ($210,000), according to reports in the Courier Gazette, Portland Press Herald and Kennebec Journal.
The Center for Tech and Civic Life did not respond to a request for a list of all Maine recipients of the funding.
Nearly 2,000 local election offices applied for the funding, which has allowed some of them to boost their election budgets by 30 to 40 percent, according to the news website Vox. Some grants have reached as high as $15 million, such as the one awarded to Dallas County, Texas.
While the funding has plugged critical gaps in the ability of governments to safely run their elections, there have been concerns that it might arrive too late to be useful. Some conservative groups have also argued that most of funding seems to be going to areas more populated by Democratic voters, according to Vox.