Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on Wednesday that he will provide grants to allow local jurisdictions to reopen polling places, largely in the South.
The initiative represents a significant departure for the former California governor, who has until now focused his election reform activities almost entirely on gerrymandering.
Schwarzenegger is targeting the effort to states formerly covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. He was inspired by a report that found more than 1,600 polling places in Section 5 jurisdictions had closed between 2012 and 2018.
“As I read stories about counties that only have one voting location for hundreds of square miles and people who wait in line for four hours to vote, I started thinking about this more and more and realized the solution is easy,” Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter to 6,000 elections officials. “If you have a budget problem that keeps you from reopening polling stations, I want to help.”
He said the grants would be “one of the best investments I have ever made.”
The eligible jurisdictions are in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
The grants will be administered by the Schwarzenegger Institute at the University of Southern California. It is unclear how many jurisdictions will apply, or how much it will cost.
“He hasn’t put a cap on it,” said Daniel Ketchell, Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff. “It’ll probably be a few million dollars.”
Schwarzenegger has not endorsed in the presidential race. He backed former Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016, and said he would not vote for President Trump in the 2016 general election.
In the letter to elections officials, he said the grant process would be non-partisan, and that grants would be awarded based on the greatest need.