The Constitution: Article I, Section 4, Clause 1:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof;
The Framers of the Constitution delegated the administration of elections to the state legislatures. The Founding Fathers believed that state level elected representatives would understand their local constituencies better than the national legislature and would be ideally situated to establish election laws to suit local taste while preserving ballot access and election integrity. In Wisconsin, the legislature established the Wisconsin Election Commission (“WEC”) to oversee elections, provide counsel and guidance, and distribute financial resources to the city clerks designated in statute as election administrators for their local municipality. However, during the 2020 November general election, an investigation of materials gleaned from several state data practices act requests uncovered evidence the City of Green Bay Mayor’s office adopted and implemented private corporate conditions, including direct corporate and corporate employee engagement in the administration of the general election. Once this malfeasance was uncovered, concerned citizens filed a complaint with the WEC to end these illegal activities.
The Complaint alleges the WEC Administrator and the city of Green Bay violated state law and the Elections and Electors clauses of the United States Constitution because they diverted constitutional authority of the State Legislature and the Commission to private corporations and the approving municipality of Green Bay. Further, Green Bay and certain Green Bay officials may have violated state and federal laws when they accepted and adopted private corporate conditions and when they approved Green Bay’s engagement of private corporations and their employees into Green Bay’s election administration.
During the summer of 2020 the Center for Tech and Civic Life (“CTCL”), a non-profit corporation funded by $350 million from Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, approved a grant to support the “Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan” submitted by the cities of Racine, Kenosha, Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Madison. The grant was intended to fund activities to ensure election safety in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic. However, CTCL quickly moved to offer additional support from corporate partners for purposes that had nothing to do with safe, COVID-19 voting. These partners were ideally situated to assist the five cities in achieving the conditions imposed by the acceptance of the grant funds. In Green Bay, this meant the mayor’s office quickly accepted the help from CTCL’s corporate partners, began creating tracking documents to respond to CTCL (not the state legislature or the WEC) and diverted authority for election administration away from the statutorily mandated city clerk, Kris Teske. The City Clerk began noticing her diminished authority, noting in one August e-mail, “I don’t understand how people who don’t have the knowledge of the process can tell us how to manage the election.” Eventually, the city of Green Bay relied on partners to not just provide guidance and best practices, but to also become directly involved in ballot chain of custody.
A month out from the election, private corporate partners were not just observing and providing guidance to the City of Green Bay but became involved in managing the Green Bay election preparations. Clerk Teske noted that Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, a paid employee of the National Vote at Home Institute, was working in the clerk’s office a month before the general election, was able to overrule the City Clerk on city ballot drop box locations, and organizing ballot curing for the city. All of these activities directly impact ballots and were not addressed in a way authorized by the Wisconsin State Legislature or the WEC. Things became more problematic on Election Day. By that time, morale was so low in the office that several staffers were on the verge of quitting, City Clerk Teske actually left to go on Family and Medical Leave, and Chief of Staff/Interim City Clerk Celestine Jeffreys did not have the City Clerk’s office in control of the Central Count headquarters in the lead-up to the November 2020 General Election or on Election Day. Mr. Spitzer-Rubenstein was effectively in control of the vote count and the election. Mr. Spitzer-Rubenstein advised and set up the Central Count headquarters. On the hotel contract where Green Bay’s Central Count headquarters would be located, Mr. Rubenstein was granted primary access to the room, ballot counters, and absentee ballot openers. In addition, he also had access to the ballots and ballot counting through the ability to access city internet networks set up at the Central Cote Counting location. When questioned by the Wisconsin legislature at a hearing to understand what took place in Wisconsin, WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe supported the Wisconsin Five cities’ claimed prerogative to adopt private corporate conditions on federal elections without approval by Congress, the state legislature and the Commission. We and our complainants believe Administrator Wolfe is wrong and that the City of Green Bay engaged in activities that violate state law. This behavior needs to be prohibited so that future elections aren’t impacted and that people know the state legislature’s directions for election administration are being followed. The information found in the data practices requests is more than sufficient to support our position and we look forward to being vindicated. We must remain vigilant and bring illegal election administration behavior to light and punish it to ensure voters can trust the election process.
by Nicholas Morgan