The Cayuga County Board of Elections received financial help from an unlikely source: Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The board was awarded a $37,125 grant from funding provided by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to two organizations: The Center for Tech and Civic Life and the Center for Election Innovation and Research.
Chan and Zuckerberg pledged $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life to help local election agencies with equipment and staffing for the presidential election. They also donated $50 million to the Center for Election Innovation and Research to aid with election security.
Katie Lacey, the Democratic elections commissioner in Cayuga County, told The Citizen that the board received an email suggesting they apply for the grant. Other election boards in New York applied for funding and most received grants, she said.
The grant can be used for "any increased costs associated with it being a presidential election," according to Lacey. Those additional costs include postage to send absentee ballot applications, the ballots and mailings to inform voters about how and where they can vote.
"We certainly didn't budget for there being the number of absentee ballots that we have to send out," Lacey said. "It's going to be a help as far as trying to keep our budget. We may not be able to stay within what our estimate was at the beginning of the year, but it's going to be $37,000 better than it looked for a while."
The board will also use a portion of the grant money for personnel. Lacey said they have between four to six people in their office every day opening absentee ballot envelopes and checking voter signatures.
As of Friday, the county received 5,653 absentee ballot applications and mailed 5,592 ballots to voters. So far, they have received 1,815 ballots with three weeks to go until the election.
In the 2016 presidential election, 2,462 voters cast absentee ballots.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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