Brown County Clerk raised concerns about observer at Central Count facility

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Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 4:42 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Action 2 News has obtained an email from Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno to the Wisconsin Elections Commission raising concerns about an observer at the city’s Central Count. Action 2 News obtained the email through an open records request.

In the email sent to WEC staff counsel Nathan Judnic on election day, Juno said she believes the Central Count location is “tainted by the influence of a person working for an outside organization affecting the election."

She told Judnic she saw the election observer with a laptop, printer and cell phone at Central Count and “interacting with the poll workers and advising them on matters.”

In response to her email, the WEC staff counsel said, “I would certainly like to be made aware of issues or decisions that have been ‘tainted’ at the central count, I’m not 100% sure what you mean.”

Judnic said the WEC was aware Green Bay would have consultants from outside groups. “We’ve discussed the roles these individuals were going to be assigned and told them that while there is nothing that would prohibit the City of from using these individuals, the inspectors and the absentee board of canvassers working the location are the individuals that are to be making decisions, not the consultants.”

Juno is apparently referring to Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, who introduced himself to Juno as an “advisor to the City of Green Bay through the National Vote at Home Institute.” The National Vote at Home Institute website describes the organization as an advocate for mail-in voting that works to expand at-home and in-person voting options, remove legislative barriers to voting at home, and help election officials on implementation and best practices with mail-in ballots.

Juno forwarded an email from Spitzer-Rubenstein where he described his job as “helping the city set up Central Count for Tuesday” and asking to speak with her about an issue someone raised with the voting machines used at Central Count.

“We were told he is an observer for the outside organization that gave them a grant and his position is paid for by that even though he’s from a different org,” Juno told Judnic. “Please explain how grant money from a private outside organization and employee from a private outside organization does not violate election laws for free and fair elections?”

To that point, Judnic replied, "As far as grant money, etc., I’m again interested if there are issues or decision that have been made that you think we should look into.” He noted that a lawsuit over grants to Wisconsin cities was dismissed.

Green Bay was one of five Wisconsin cities that received grants from the non-profit Center for Tech and Civic Life. A conservative group, the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, sued over the grants, saying those cities are Democratic strongholds and claiming the grants amounted to bribery to increase voter turnout (see related story). A federal judge rejected the challenge.

State Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Gibson) announced Wednesday that an investigation is underway over a “pattern of concerns stemming from the City of Green Bay’s handling of the April 7th and November 3rd 2020 elections.”

In a news release, Sortwell said the Brown County Clerk’s office has raised some serious concerns on how the city has conducted recent elections. Sortwell went on to say the city’s conduct was “seemingly highly-partisan fashion to the detriment of the democratic system” and added that Wisconsin citizens “deserve to know what happened, and have a right to free, fair and open elections.”

Sortwell, who sits on the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee, says the investigation in Green Bay is part of an investigation called for by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Action 2 News reached out to Juno on Wednesday for comment regarding any voter fraud, discrepancies or red flags she may have. She replied that she is currently focused on the canvass to certify Brown County’s election results, and she didn’t have any further comment than the observations in her e-mail to Nathan Judnic.

Juno was also asked on Tuesday if there was any indication of voter fraud, and she said “I’m not aware of any type of voter fraud.”

Canvassing of Brown County ballots began Tuesday, November 10. Canvassing is part of the normal election process where Juno said they meticulously go over Election Day reports from individual municipalities, and is open to the public. Juno added they have until November 17 to finish canvassing the vote.

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