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“That’s baloney”: Green Bay Police Chief dispels rumor about Central Count move

Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 9:15 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 3, 2020 at 6:29 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Several communities in Wisconsin have been authorized to use Central Count Absentee Ballot sites. What does that mean? Instead of processing absentee ballots at polling places, they’ll be processed and canvassed at one central location.

Green Bay Mayor voting update

YOUR VOICE YOUR VOTE: Green Bay's mayor gives us an update on the Central Count of absentee ballots and voting in the city.

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Tuesday, November 3, 2020

In Green Bay, the Central Count is happening at KI Convention Center West Grand Ballroom, 333 Main St.

The city says about 55 percent of registered voters cast a ballot ahead of election day. Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich says the city has received 31,189 absentee ballots. Those ballots are being counted at the Central Count location Tuesday.

Voters should get an absentee ballot to one of the city’s drop boxes by 7 p.m. so they can be moved to the Central Count and processed. All polling places are open until 8 p.m.

The last word we had is that more than 12,000 absentee ballots have been counted so far. A tabulator jammed, but there’s a technician on-site to fix any issues and the tabulator is working again.

Green Bay has set up a live stream so the public can watch the Central Count: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs07UuWLDkE

Article continues below the livestream

Green Bay police and poll watchers are keeping an eye on the count.

“We also have some detectives that are up at the KI Center. As you know, the Central Count has been moved from downstairs at City Hall to over to the KI Center to provide us a lot more room. This was a decision that was made several weeks ago. We went by there earlier this morning. Everything seems to be going just great there. There are poll watchers there from both parties, keeping an eye on everything,” says Smith.

Chief Smith is urging people not to believe misinformation that’s spreading on social media. Some people are sharing posts on Facebook that claim the city is moving voting machines to one central location. They’ve confused that with the Central Count.

“I did get an email from a retired police officer saying, ‘Hey, I heard the Central Count was moved surreptitiously over to the KI Center.’ That’s baloney. We were planning on doing that a long time ago. That was announced publicly on the website. So that’s one little bit of disinformation that was out there," says Chief Smith.

Smith again urges people to think before sharing social media posts that could contain disinformation.

“First of all, there’s a little bit of disinformation out there. Often times during elections, or often times during times like this, people start putting things out on social media. Just don’t believe the stuff you read on social media until you verify it. If you have any questions, you can call the city clerk’s office, you can call us, the website the mayor talked about, myvote.wi.gov is an excellent resource," says Smith.

According to Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, “Several large cities including Milwaukee, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine and Wausau count their absentee ballots centrally."

“Central count facilities are open during Election Day and after 8 p.m. for public and media observation until counting is complete. At these facilities, election inspectors will be reviewing return envelopes for required information before recording these ballots in the poll book. Once a voter number is assigned to the voter, each envelope will be opened, the ballot will be removed and flattened, and the ballot will then be processed on the voting equipment,” says the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

“Unofficial election results from municipalities that use central count may be provided to the county clerks and the public in two different phases. The initial results will either be the totals from ballots cast in person at the polling place on Election Day or may be the totals from absentee ballots processed at central count. Once both results sets are available, the vote totals from absentee ballots will be added to the polling place totals and complete results sets for each ward will then be posted,” says the WEC.

Officers will be driving by polling places, but Smith says they’re trying “not to make it too officious.” He wants to make sure people have a safe and normal voting experience.

Mayor Genrich says he is encouraged by the enthusiasm for democracy.

“Things are going really well out there. I think people were queued up at Sears, I heard a report of somebody at 5:30 in the morning being out there with his own chair, so it’s great to see that enthusiasm. People are really interested about exercising their right to vote today and we’re really excited about that," says Genrich.

“Things are going very smoothly at our polling locations,” Genrich also told us. “Everybody, you know, is I think just enjoying the process, enjoying the chance to get out and participate in the election and get to see their friends and neighbors. Everybody has, you know, vast, vast majority of our residents have been wearing PPE and social distancing, so no concerns to report there.”

There have been no reports of major issues at polling places in Green Bay.

“We did get a call today where someone was electioneering a little too close to one of our polling locations. One of our officers went by there, asked them to move 100 feet away. They cooperated and that was the end of that,” says Smith.

Officers are carrying tape measurers in case they have to draw a line when it comes to people who are electioneering near the polls. Law says you cannot have political signs or clothing within 100 feet of a polling place.

In Neenah, the Central Count will take place at City Hall on 211 Walnut Street.

Fox Crossing also uses a Central Count.

In Brown County, Central Count authorizations have been granted to De Pere, Green Bay, Allouez, Ashwaubenon, Bellevue, Hobart, and Suamico.

CLICK HERE for a full list of Central Count locations in Wisconsin.

“Results for each ward in the municipality, or municipalities, that use central count to process absentee ballots should not be considered as complete until all absentee totals have been added to the polling place totals,” says the WEC.

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