County wades into election fray with resolution

Some say measure similar to one proposed by GOP is needed to ensure integrity, others call it an unwelcome intrusion of partisan politics
Ozaukee Press staff

The Ozaukee County Board stepped into the election fray Wednesday, approving a resolution that proponents said is needed to ensure the integrity of the election process and opponents say isn’t necessary and injects partisan politics into a nonpartisan arena.

The resolution prohibits the county from accepting any donations from an individual or non-governmental group to help pay for election administration during the next two years.

The resolution was proposed by Supr. David Irish of Cedarburg, who said he is concerned about the impact of more than $10.3 million in grants from the Center of Tech and Civic Life given to Wisconsin municipalities to increase voter turnout and improve election administration during the 2020 election.

The grants, funded in large part by Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, who said they wanted to ensure every community had the needed resources to allow citizens to vote, have come under fire from Republicans.

Irish pointed to the grants as a reason for the resolution, saying, “I think this is a pre-emptive resolution to let people know we’re not going to accept it even if you offer it,” but not everyone agrees it is needed.

Supr. Bruce Ross of Mequon said the measure injects partisan politics into a County Board that is supposed to be nonpartisan.

“It feels political to me,” he said. “This does  nothing to help people feel more confident in elections. I think the County Board serves its constituents best when we focus on pragmatic, bureaucratic issues, not politics.”

When it comes to grants, he added, the county doesn’t need a blanket policy.

“Anything Ozaukee County considers accepting, all the County Board gets to weigh in on,” Ross said. “I believe we should vote on each instance.”

Supr. Rob Holyoke of Thiensville, who voted against the measure at the Executive Committee, concurred with Ross.

“Obviously it has something to do with the Zuckerberg grant. Nobody in Ozaukee County applied for any of those,” he said. “This seems to be finding a solution to a problem that’s not there.”

Injecting partisan politics into the board sends a message that the county is here to only serve one group, Holyoke added.

“You’re supposed to serve everybody, not just the people who elected you,” he said.

Despite the fact no municipalities in Ozaukee County received the Center of Tech and Civic Life grants, Irish said the ban is needed, especially since Wisconsin continues to be a battleground state.

“It (the CTCL grants) brought up many questions about the integrity of the election,” Irish said, saying studies show the funds were used for “ballot harvesting” and had an impact on the 2020 election.

The county, he said, funds its elections well and doesn’t need to consider donations from anyone.

“Really, there’s no benefit to the county,” Irish said, adding that if the county needs more money for elections, the board is willing to consider it.

“I don’t think we want outside groups affecting how we vote,” he said.

Irish’s resolution notes that a statewide ban on private funding for elections approved by the Senate was vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers, and that this makes it paramount that counties take steps to protect elections.

Irish said he had hoped the resolution would be a permanent measure, but Corporation Counsel Rhonda Gordon said this board can’t tie the hands of future boards.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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