Trustee claims private grants influenced 2020 election

By COREY SCHMIDT

Ozaukee Press staff

Fredonia Trustee Joshua Haas said on July 7 that the Village Board should look into prohibiting the village from accepting non-governmental funds to help run elections.

Haas said the board should follow Ozaukee County’s lead, noting the County Board passed a similar resolution on July 6.

The county resolution does not apply to its individual municipalities, meaning Fredonia may accept non-governmental funds if it wants to.

Haas, who is also a county supervisor, wants the village to join the county because he contends there were irregularities in the 2020 presidential election.

He cited a study of election administration grants awarded by the Center for Tech and Civic Life to Wisconsin municipalities conducted by conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty  to support his claims.

But, Will Flanders, the research director who helped write the “Finger on the Scale” study, said in an interview this week the firm didn’t find any “nefarious motive” behind the grants.

The study concluded that large, predominately liberal cities — those with more voters — disproportionately received more money from the CTCL grants than smaller, predominately Republican municipalities.

Flanders also said neither the village nor the county will benefit from prohibiting non-governmental funds.

“All (these municipalities) are really doing is harming their own ability to use these funds,” Flanders said. “Without a state level reform, we’re going to have a sort of a hodgepodge of different policies around the state.”

However, Haas believes the grants influenced the election and wants people to “feel confident that when they close the curtain and fill in the bubble (on the ballot), it is counted as they wish.”

Flanders said WILL debunked claims of voter fraud, concluding that Wisconsin’s 2020 results were similar to 2016.

“Compared to 2016, there really weren’t many wards that looked that different,” Flanders said. “This election looks very much like 2016” in terms of results.

The main difference between 2020 and 2016 was voter turnout. The high voter turnout in 2020 is a better explanation for what happened, not widespread voter fraud, Flanders said. A number of people voted for Biden in the presidental election but for conservative candidates in congressional and local elections, he added.

Haas said the Dominion voting machines  that were used are possibly fraudulent and should be investigated.

Flanders said widespread claims that Dominion voting machines tilted the election towards Biden and away from Trump were investigated and debunked.

“What we saw in Wisconsin is that in areas that had the machines, Trump actually did better,” Flanders said. “At least for Wisconsin, we were able to pretty much debunk that theory.”

Flanders and Kyle Koenen, director of policy at WILL, said getting non-governmental money out of elections could be good, but the policies would work better at the state level.

This is because if the predominantly conservative communities pushing the prohibition are successful, only the more liberal municipalities reap the benefits.

“Ensuring confidence in Wisconsin’s elections starts with reforms that keep voter rolls up to date, requires state agencies to follow the law, increases transparency and oversight and clarifies rules and procedures so Wisconsin elections are conducted fairly and uniformly across the state,” Flanders said.

Gov. Tony Evers vetoed Assembly Bill 173, which attempted to prohibit municipalities from applying for or accepting non-governmental funds for election administration.

Non-governmental funds, like the CTCL grants, allowed municipalities to “pay poll workers and purchase personal protective equipment and supplies, thereby keeping our elections safe for poll workers and voters alike,” Evers wrote in his veto message.

According to WILL, non-governmental funds could have impacted voter turnout.

“We found there was a relationship between accessing these private funds and voter turnout,” Flanders said. “Turnout (in areas that got grants) increased more than other areas of the state that didn’t.”

Village President Don Dohrwardt said the resolution will likely be introduced through one of the villages committees, but which committee is yet to be determined.

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