Judge: Green Bay clerk must expand poll watcher access

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge on Wednesday ordered a clerk in Green Bay to grant poll watchers greater access to in-person absentee voting, siding with Republicans who alleged the clerk was improperly allowing them to only view certain parts of process.

Judge Marc A. Hammer ordered City Clerk Celestine Jeffreys to allow poll watchers access to areas where voters complete witness certification and return their ballots in the city hall building. His order came a day after the Republican National Committee filed the lawsuit in Brown County.

Poll watchers, referred to as election observers in Wisconsin, are legally entitled to view all the public parts of the voting process from an area designated by an election official. There are no residency requirements to be a poll watcher in the state.

Jeffreys said Wednesday afternoon that her office has complied with the order.

“In response to a legal action brought by the RNC regarding rules of observation, the city has provided additional areas of observation,” Jeffreys said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “The modifications made will continue to preserve and protect the integrity of the in-person absentee voting process while protecting voter security and freedom.”

According to the complaint, Jeffreys had previously allowed observers to be in her office, where voters would check in, register to vote and receive their ballots. However, voters were then sent into the hallway outside her office — out of sight of the poll watchers — to mark their choices, certify their ballot with a witness and place it in a ballot box.

The clerk said she has received other requests for greater observation access that “would have resulted in intrusions upon voters actively casting their ballots,” a private part of the voting process protected by law.

The lawsuit is the latest in a slew of legal actions by Republicans targeting administration of the 2022 election. The RNC said it has filed 75 election-related lawsuits this cycle.

The party has also devoted millions of dollars to recruiting poll watchers and election workers by the thousands, a move that has raised concerns about insider threats and aggressive observers.

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