By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Madison poll workers will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination if they want to assist in elections, according to a city newsletter.
The policy, clearly illegal on its face according to a legal expert, was blasted Wednesday by the chairwoman of a legislative committee investigating the way cities like Madison handled the 2020 presidential election.
“This is nothing more than a political power play to prevent those who, for various reasons, have chosen not to be vaccinated from participating in the electoral process,” said Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), who heads the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections.
She noted the announcement comes after reports that a record number of Republican voters are signing up to serve as poll workers. Madison, led by liberals, is one of the most left-leaning cities in America.
“Those who have acquired natural immunity, have religious concerns or allergies should not be prohibited from performing their civic duties,” Brandtjen said.
Attorney Joe Voiland, involved in several liberty cases in the Pandemic Age, said Madison’s mandate is illegal.
“State law sets what requirements are to be for poll workers. I don’t think any municipality can vary that,” he said.
Poll workers, although paid, may choose to volunteer their services. Federal law prohibits allowing employees to volunteer their service for which they are employed, under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Employers cannot classify anyone who can be considered a volunteer as an employee. Labor unions demanded as much years ago. People with the ability to volunteer their time can make it hard for union workers to get paid.
“Because Wisconsin law allows poll workers to volunteer their time, no poll worker could ever be an ‘employee,’” said Voiland, who is representing a poll worker in La Crosse who was barred from working elections because he couldn’t wear a mask.
It appears the city’s policy alters that long-established arrangement/law.
The newsletter demands city of Madison election officials fill out proof of vaccination forms and return them by Jan. 7.
“One of our staff members will be able to check your proof of vaccination and take in your completed form. The schedule is below,” the document states. “This schedule of in-person opportunities to complete your COVID-19 vaccine attestation form will be in effect from Monday, November 29th through Friday, January 7th.“
The Republican Party of Wisconsin noted Madison’s mandate was announced just two weeks before the Nov. 30 deadline for county party officials to submit poll worker names ahead of 2022 elections. Poll workers are drawn from a list of applicants selected by the local Republican and Democratic parties.
RPW says the requirements are a departure from Wisconsin election laws and a “dangerous slippery slope” that should “sound alarms for any Wisconsinite concerned about election integrity and fairness in our democratic process.”
“This week, Madison has again decided to use fear to circumvent election integrity. Mandating vaccines for poll workers, at a time when even the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s decision to limit Special Voting Deputies is being challenged in the courts, is only meant to restrict the public from realizing fair and open elections,” said state GOP chairman Paul Farrow.
Madison is in the crosshairs of multiple election integrity investigations. The city clerk’s office was called out in a recent state audit for refusing to turn over election documents to auditors. The state Senate last week issued a subpoena demanding the city follow the law and turn over the records.
“This is a prime example of shady behavior from election officials that sows distrust in the democratic process, and we are evaluating options to ensure that the City of Madison cannot further damage voter confidence,” Farrow said.