MADISON, Wis.—The city of Milwaukee allowed liberal, third-party groups funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to set the rules and help administer November’s presidential election, according to a complaint filed on behalf of five residents by an election watchdog.
Milwaukee, with the complaint filed by the Amistad Project, became the fourth of the so-called WI-5 cities to be accused of election law violations under state law and the U.S. Constitution as more details emerge about the five cities’ partnerships with “safe elections” groups.
Complaints focused on Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, and Milwaukee are filed with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which has sought outside counsel because its administrator is accused of a conflict of interest.
The Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life handed out more than $8 million in “election safety and security” grants to Wisconsin’s five largest and most heavily Democratic cities, which also include Madison. The bulk of that total— $6.3 million—was distributed as part of a controversial contract between the center and the five cities.
The Center for Tech and Civic Life received more than $300 million from Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, ostensibly to help local elections offices administer safe and secure elections.
As a Wisconsin Spotlight investigation uncovered, CTCL required the “Wisconsin 5” cities to sign contracts that included funding “clawback” provisions if they failed to meet the organization’s demands. Local elections officials had to work with the center’s partner organizations, including the National Vote at Home Institute.
In final official results in Wisconsin, Democrat nominee Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by 49.6% of the vote to 48.9%, flipping a state with 10 electoral votes that Trump won in 2016.
Emails show longtime Democratic operative Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, Wisconsin lead for the institute, was intricately involved in the administering Green Bay’s and Milwaukee’s elections, including offering to “cure” or correct absentee ballots.
Spitzer-Rubenstein and several other left-leaning activists in the Center for Tech and Civic Life’s network played prominent roles in Milwaukee’s election administration, according to emails obtained by Wisconsin Spotlight through an open records request.
The emails show the activists and election officials sharing raw voter data and discussing how best to maximize turnout of traditionally Democratic voters in “areas with predominantly minorities.”
The activists and officials tapped another liberal group, Power the Polls, to help recruit scores of poll workers and discuss ballot curing.
Activists recommended Mikva Challenge to recruit high school age poll workers to serve as “ballot couriers” and for “ballot drop-off voter registrations.” Mikva Challenge describes itself as developing youth to “be empowered, informed, and active citizens who will promote a just and equitable society.”
The complaint in Milwaukee, filed May 11, cites more than a dozen such left-wing partners of the Center for Tech and Civic Life.
Milwaukee city officials working with outside groups turned over responsibilities that solely belong to local elections officials and Wisconsin’s election regulator, according to the complaint.
To date, the Amistad Project has filed election law complaints against Milwaukee, Green Bay, Racine, and Kenosha. The Wisconsin Assembly’s Campaigns and Elections Committee is investigating the involvement of third-party groups in the state’s 2020 elections.
Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said the agency had received the Milwaukee complaint and posted it on its website.
“The respondents have been notified of the complaint and have been given 10 business days to file a sworn response,” Magney said, adding that the complaint would be “handled the same way as the other complaints involving Green Bay, Racine, and Kenosha.”
Outside counsel will be brought in to review the complaint.
The office of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, did not respond to a request for comment on the complaint.
In the end, Wisconsin’s five largest cities saw massive turnout, with Biden substantially benefiting from it.
The Democratic nominee won Milwaukee with nearly 79% of the vote to Trump’s 19.6%. In Milwaukee County, Biden claimed more than 69% of the vote.
In Dane County, home to far-left Madison, the state’s capital, Biden beat Trump 76% to 23%.
Biden won by more than 6,000 votes in the city of Kenosha, but lost Kenosha County to Trump, 50.8% to 47.7%.
Biden won Green Bay by about 4,000 votes, but lost surrounding Brown County to Trump, 52.8% to 45.6%. Trump also won Racine County with 51.3%, although Biden picked up more votes in the city of Racine.
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