CTCL’s $500,000 grant to the Greenwich Registrar of Voters is a Trojan Horse

Submitted by Romulo E. Samaniego, Greenwich

I read the Jason Snead’s letter to the editor (Snead: Private funding of election offices sows distrust in the democratic process February 28, 2023.) and it kind of startled me.  

The Center for Tech and Civic Life’s (CTCL) $500,000 grant to the Greenwich Registrar of Voters is a trojan horse.  He made it sound like it was antidemocratic to promote voting rights.  I think he is right, though that voters would not be blasé if a group of former Trump campaign staffers started doling out millions in Koch money to influence election administration.  Oh yes, his non-profit is a recipient of mucho Koch funding and that is okay if his organization can receive the Koch funding and use it as they wish as opposed to what the Kochs’ dictate.

But what piqued my curiosity was the withdrawal of the election clerk in Ottawa County, MI from The Alliance for Election Excellence by citing grave concerns about taking grant moneys because it’s not government money.  I checked on who governs the very Republican Ottawa County. 

Ottawa County has been a Republican County since 1864.  County Administrator Alan Vandenberg has served since 2003 and is the longest serving administrator of the county. Mlive.com December 15, 2017.  In 2012, the County Administrator Alan Vandenberg and the Board of Commissioners adopted the 4Cs initiative including “Cultural Intelligence”.  Mr. Vandenberg stated that “discrimination is not only alive and well, but it will also negatively impact the future prosperity of Ottawa County and West Michigan if not addressed…the future prosperity of West Michigan hinges upon pursuing and welcoming diversity.”   Cultural Intelligence Committee – Ottawa County MIMiottawa.org.  The county also adopted the slogan “Where you belong.”  Vandenberg said the slogan is intended to let everyone, regardless of color, ethnic background, sexual identity, religion or other qualifier, know they are welcome in Ottawa County. Mlive.com. January 26,2018.  Quite an impressive initiative that shows the love of all people.  

A new election sweeps Ottawa County in 2022.  The newly seated, further right majority Ottawa County Board of Commissioners makes sweeping changes in January 2023.   The county motto “Where You Belong” was changed to “Where Freedom Rings”, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion branch was dissolved, the head health official was replaced and a conservative law organization their main legal representative. Mlive.com January 4, 2023. The conservative group that promoted the new board members, according to Fox 17, was against the mandated COVID-19 safety measures and cultural diversity policies. Fox 17 January 4, 2023.

Interestingly enough, the election clerk (Jason Roebuck) did state, “While I value the overall stated goals of the Alliance, I firmly believe that funding for election administration must come from [the government].”  Woodtv.com January 31, 2023.

Bottom line, Greenwich is no Ottawa County.  I trust the decisions that our Registrars of Voters, Fred De Caro (R) and Mary Hegarty (D) have made, especially in getting the CTCL grant. They are upfront and I trust they believe and act on their values.