Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 29, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The liberal group serving free meals next to a popular Milwaukee early voting site is backed by some of the most prominent leftists that American politics has dished out — including former First Lady Michelle Obama.
And, as of Wednesday, the Milwaukee Election Commission had no problem with what one state elections commissioner says is electioneering.
World Central Kitchen (WCK) was back Tuesday at Milwaukee’s Midtown Shopping Center, one of the city’s more active early voting sites. On the menu: hot soup and, according to some concerned citizens, illegal voter influence.
An election observer this past weekend photographed meals being served near the door of the Milwaukee early voting site. In the picture, about a dozen people are gathered around a food service table. A green sign promotes “Free Meals,” and “Food is Hope Food Is Community.”
Nothing had changed as of Wednesday.
Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, insists WCK isn’t breaking any election laws.
“State law allows food to be distributed to voters so long as it is under $1 in value,” she said in an email to Empower Wisconsin. “To our knowledge, the snacks that have been handed out comply with this requirement and also are being offered to any member of the public – not solely voters.”
Wisconsin Elections Commission member Robert Spindell disagrees with Woodall-Vogg’s reading of election law.
He said the food servers need to be at least 100 feet from the polling site’s entrance. WCK parked pretty much next door. He questioned the monetary value of the “free” meals.
“Yesterday they were doing soup. What constitutes a dollar? I don’t think you could buy a cup of soup in many places for $1,” Spindell said.
One election observer said a World Central Kitchen server told a man standing in the in-person absentee voter line to be sure to get a cup of soup after he voted.
Which creates another issue. Woodall-Vogg said WCK is serving all comers, not just voters. But the organization is in the middle of a massive and expensive campaign devoted to serving food at the polls. The group declares as much on its website.
“Early voting has begun in many states across the country – and with it lines up to 12 hours long. On Monday, the first day of early voting in Georgia, thousands of people showed up to cast their ballots. WCK’s Relief Team mobilized in Marietta immediately,” Central Kitchen’s website boasts. “Our local lead, Ackeem, called on several restaurants in the area to start cooking. When we arrived near the polling location to serve dinner, Ackeem met people walking out who had lined up at 8am.”
It appears WCK is working with Michelle Obama and NBA star LeBron James in early voting initiatives. The former first lady and the professional basketball player have been quite clear about their support for the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.
“Mrs. Obama’s When We All Vote and James’ More Than A Vote are teaming to provide information, transportation, food, music, personal protective equipment and other support at early voting sites around the country Oct. 18-31,” according to KTLA.
“In-person events are planned for Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; Orlando, Florida; and Philadelphia. They will be held within walking distance of early voting sites and include free food from the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres, DoorDash and other providers,” the story notes.
The “free food” campaign has the stink of electioneering all over it. Spindell said he has asked staff attorneys at the Wisconsin Elections Commission to clarify state and federal law for Milwaukee elections officials.
“I suspect they will make them move 100 feet,” he said.