Multiple Wisconsin lawmakers are calling on Democratic Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich to resign following allegations he allowed an outside group funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to help administer the 2020 election.
The Associated Press reported the demands for the mayor’s resignation came after a Tuesday story in the Wisconsin Spotlight, which chronicled the city of Green Bay received a grant of $1.6 million from the Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life.
The report alleged that the “grant mentor” overseeing the Green Bay effort, Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, was given access to absentee ballots.
Spitzer-Rubenstein, Wisconsin State Lead for the National Vote at Home Institute, has worked for several Democratic Party candidates in the past.
He “became the de facto city elections chief” in many ways, the Spotlight reported, based on emails obtained by Wisconsin lawmakers.
“The emails show Green Bay’s highly partisan Democrat Mayor Eric Genrich and his staff usurping city Clerk Kris Teske’s authority and letting the Zuckerberg-funded ‘grant team’ take over — a clear violation of Wisconsin election statutes, say election law experts.”
In an Oct. 7, 2020 email, Spitzer-Rubenstein sought to assist Green Bay election officials “cure” returned absentee ballots.
“Can we help with curing absentee ballots that are missing a signature or witness signature address?” he wrote to Teske.
The city clerk turned down Spitzer-Rubenstein’s offer.
The mayor’s office then intervened.
“The grant mentors would like to meet with you to discuss, further, the ballot curing process. Please let them know when you’re available,” Celestine Jeffreys, Genrich’s chief of staff, wrote to Teske.
She had already been angered by the nonprofit trying to insinuate itself into the conduct of the city’s election by August of 2020.
“As you know I am very frustrated, along with the Clerk’s Office. I don’t know what to do anymore. I am trying to explain the process but it isn’t heard. I don’t feel I can talk to the Mayor after the last meeting you, me, Celestine, and the Mayor had even though the door is supposedly open,” Teske wrote to Green Bay Finance Director Diana Ellenbeckerin in late August.
“I don’t understand how people who don’t have knowledge of the process can tell us how to manage the election.”
Teske apparently reached the end of her rope by Oct. 22 and announced via email she was going on leave, starting immediately, and indicated two members of her staff wanted to quit.
She resigned in January to take the same position in the nearby town of Ashwaubenon.
Zuckerberg’s Center for Tech and Civic Life grant to Green Bay was part of a $6.3 million undertaking in Wisconsin’s five largest cities, which are also Democratic strongholds.
The nonprofit made $250 million in such grants nationwide, the AP reported.
According to a news release from the Wisconsin Republican Party, state Sen. Kathy Bernier, chair of the Senate’s elections committee, as well as Sens. Roger Roth and Alberta Darling are calling for Genrich’s resignation.
Roth accused Genrich of ceding “his responsibility to safeguard the integrity of our elections to an outside, partisan organization and I am calling on him to resign from office immediately.”
This report about the handling of the 2020 elections in @CityofGreenBay, shows @MayorGenrich ceded his responsibility to safeguard the integrity of our elections to an outside, partisan organization and I am calling on him to resign from office immediately
— Senator Roger Roth (@SenatorRoth) March 9, 2021
The AP reported that Democratic state Reps. Kristina Shelton and Lee Snodgrass accused Republicans of promoting conspiracy theories and “right wing propaganda.”
“That assertion that just because someone has access to ballots does not mean that person impacts ballots or votes at all,” Shelton told WLUK.
“I think it’s important to remember this report comes from an extreme right-wing organization that is run by a former Republican Assembly member,” added the lawmaker, whose district is in Green Bay.
The Green Bay Gazette reported that President Joe Biden carried Green Bay with about 4,000 more votes than former President Donald Trump, 25,036 to 21,123.
“In total, 31,891 voters in Green Bay cast absentee ballots while another 15,494 voted in-person Tuesday,” according to the paper.
Biden’s margin of victory in the city was 3,913 compared to Hillary Clinton’s 1,470 vote win over Trump in 2016.