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Brown County court grants temporary injunction in voting observer lawsuit against Green Bay clerk

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Posted at 12:03 PM, Nov 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-02 22:14:26-04

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Late Wednesday morning, a Brown County judge granted a temporary injunction in a lawsuit filed against Green Bay over voting observers.

The Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit against the City of Green Bay claiming Green Bay's clerk has been prohibiting members of the public from observing some aspects of the in-person absentee voting process.

It was also brought by four observers who don't live in the city.

"Now in the City of Green Bay, they were shutting out Republican poll watchers from observing absentee voting," RNC Director of Strategic Communications Gates McGavick said.

A City of Green Bay assistant attorney said an issue is space limitations.

"The city does not have an objection to them observing that process," attorney Lindsay Mather said in court. "Our objection or our position is that there are limited areas from which they can do that."

The attorney also said the lawsuit is improper because complaints should have gone through the Elections Commission.

But during the hearing at the Brown County Courthouse, a judge required the city to provide observer access to the witness certification process and to electors depositing ballots in the ballot box during the in-person absentee voting window.

Those changes were made by 2 p.m.

"We're just asking that the law is followed," McGavick said. "It's not very controversial and that's why the ruling came so quickly."

A Wisconsin statute states the "observation areas shall be so positioned to permit any election observer to readily observe all public aspects of the voting process."

The lawsuit says clerk Celestine Jeffreys prohibited poll watchers from observing any aspect of the voting process that takes place in the public hallway outside of her office.

It also says a blue bin being used as a ballot return box in the hallway appeared to be unattended and unguarded at some points.

"An observer has a right to watch any voter deposit any absentee ballot in a ballot box… we would not say 'yes' to that," Mather said.

We talked with the clerk, but she was not willing to provide comment at this time. A statement from the mayor's office says "Previously, broad requests for unrestricted access to observe every aspect of the voting process have been received, but granting those requests likely would have resulted in intrusions upon voters actively casting their ballots, which is not legally observable under state law."

"This was very much an open-and-shut case of a failure to follow election law," McGavick said.

In a statement, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in part, "The RNC is suing Green Bay alongside concerned Wisconsin voters because the city's Democrat election officials are refusing to follow Wisconsin’s election law. Poll watchers have a right to poll watch, but Green Bay's clerk is refusing to let them in the room."