Empower Wisconsin | April 14, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — A Green Bay alderman wants an independent investigation into the handling of the city’s messy election day in which voters were forced to stand in long lines after officials closed all but two of Green Bay’s voting stations.
“It was just shoddy decision-making or incompetence, or something else,” long-time City Council Member Chris Wery told Empower Wisconsin on Monday, nearly a week after Milwaukee and Green Bay dramatically paired back their number of election sites.
“I really think our mayor was banking on lawsuits and the executive order of the governor carrying the day so he wouldn’t have to have an election,” Wery added, referring to Gov. Tony’s 11th-hour attempt to postpone the election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the governor’s delay tactic. “We have four high schools and four middle schools that we could have easily had staffed on both sides of the river, with plenty of National Guard members to do that.”
Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich and City Clerk Kris Teske have insisted they couldn’t recruit enough poll workers to assist, just as election officials in Milwaukee claimed. But we are learning that, as in Milwaukee, Genrich and Teske turned away volunteers — including Wisconsin National Guard members.
Wery said he had enlisted a dozen people to help at the polls, but Genrich told him the city was not taking volunteers.
James Fitzgerald, chairman of the Brown County Republican Party did the same.
“I reached out to Mayor Genrich on March 30, imploring him to apply all the necessary resources to run a smooth election on April 7, and heard nothing. Today, we see the results of his inaction,” Fitzgerald said in a statement following the election.”
Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno, said the long lines were “unacceptable.”
“Clearly, the size of Green Bay only having two polling locations with one tabulator at each location was insufficient,” she told WBAY.
In a Facebook post, Genrich claimed reducing the city’s usual 37 polling sites to just two was a “last resort.”
“We had the option of bringing inexperienced individuals into the process, but our city clerk and I did not feel comfortable implicating untrained city employees, members of the public, or members of the National Guard in a dangerous and stressful environment,” Genrich said in a Facebook post Wednesday.
So the mayor was worried about putting members of the Guard into a “dangerous and stressful” situation? The National Guard? The same people who serve in war zones and national disasters? The same folks who already have served on the front lines of the pandemic in medical and rescue assistance?
Genrich and his liberal allies have blamed his city’s election day problems on the GOP-led Legislature, which declined to change state law to stop the in-person voting. Evers, of course, shared the position that the election must go on until late in the game, when the left pressured him to call for an all-mail election and, finally, to postpone election day.
But it wasn’t the Republican lawmakers who failed to remove from the Green Bay’s city website Evers’ overturned order, a failure that created even more voter confusion.
“I had emailed them to update the website. They didn’t do that the day of the election so there was mass confusion,” Wery said. “The mayor should have been all over the news saying we’re having an election tomorrow, here’s our plan. Instead, he’s been kind of a hermit over the last month.”
And It wasn’t the Legislature that told Green Bay election officials to keep voters waiting in lines out in the rain, allowing only a few people at a time into Green Bay West High School’s gymnasium to vote.
In an interview last week, Genrich said he feels “awful” about the problems at the polls. Wery said the mayor has promised a full “self evaluation” of the election mess, and that he would present the report at next week’s council meeting.
“You don’t ask the fox for a report about his trip to the hen house,” the alderman said.
So Wery has asked the council’s Protection and Policy Committee to make a motion establishing the investigation. But the meeting scheduled for Monday night was inexplicably canceled, Wery said.