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Private-sector coalitions are providing masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other supplies to ensure safety in voting locations.

Business gifts to help run the vote expand, along with objections on left and right

Conservatives hoping to prevent private money from helping Americans vote have so far taken direct aim at just a couple of billionaires: Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, who on Tuesday announced another $100 million in donations to help local governments conduct comprehensive and safe balloting in three weeks.

The donation follows their previous gift of $300 million, which has prompted lawsuits from the right in eight battleground states arguing that such benevolence should not be permitted to cover election administration costs.

But the Facebook philanthropists are among hundreds of business leaders who have stepped forward to help cash-strapped election officials scrambling to put enough poll workers, protective gear and infrastructure in place to avert chaos on Election Day. From the four dozen stadiums that sports leagues have opened as polling sites to the millions worth of face shields, masks and safety supplies donated to election workers by major corporations — the private sector's investment in this election is without precedent.

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Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg gave the Center for Tech and Civic Life $250 million to distribute through grants.

Debate, and more suits, sparked by spurt of private funds for election costs

This is the latest illustration of how far the discord over the presidential election has gone:

Faced with a once-in-a-century pandemic that's claimed more than 200,000 lives, and created unprecedented health risks and other complications for voting, Congress and the Trump administration deadlocked after allocating just 10 percent of the $4 billion both red and blue states are begging for to assure the nation's central democratic exercise is safe, comprehensive and trustworthy during the pandemic.

But once wealthy benefactors started stepping in to help — led by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who pledged $300 million a month ago for such anodyne uses as buying disinfectant and hiring poll workers — their effort almost immediately got embroiled in the most litigated election in American history.

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Actor Ed Helms, among the boldface names at RepresentUs' 2019 Unrig Summit, will emcee the group's virtual fundraiser on Sunday.

A-listers headline virtual gala to raise $2 million to protect 2020 election

RepresentUs, a leading good-governance advocacy group, will host a star-studded virtual event on Sunday, hoping to raise $2 million for increased access to secure mail-in ballots and safe in-person voting.

Dubbed United to Save the Vote, the event will be emceed by actor Ed Helms with performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Zooey Deschanel, Sia, Dave Matthews, Sarah Silverman and other A-listers. It will support VoteSafe, a cross-partisan coalition chaired by Republican Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and first secretary of Homeland Security, and Democrat Jennifer Granholm, a former governor of Michigan.

"American voters face unprecedented threats to casting their ballots safely and securely during November's critical elections — from the ongoing pandemic to a dramatic shortage of poll workers to interference with the United States postal service, which undermines the security and validity of mail-in voting," the group said in announcing the event.

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We need someone, perhaps Tom Ridge, to be the leading voice fighting the president's voter suppression efforts, writes Michael Golden.

A national voice to fight Trump's rogue election tactics: Coming soon?

Golden is the author of "Unlock Congress" (Why Not Books) and a senior fellow at the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy. He is a member of The Fulcrum's editorial advisory board.
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