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‘Disruptive’ observers removed from Milwaukee area polling locations

Police removed two people from polling locations in Glendale, a Milwaukee suburb, during a special primary election

Voting signs outside a polling place
Voting signs point to a polling place at Mendota Elementary School in Madison during Wisconsin’s spring primary on April 7, 2020. Steven Potter/WPR

Two election observers were removed from polling locations in a Milwaukee suburb Tuesday after reports that they were being disruptive.

Police in Glendale, north of the city of Milwaukee, removed the poll watchers from two separate locations before 10 a.m., according to a statement from Glendale police Capt. Thomas Treder.

No arrests were made.

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Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy told WPR three poll watchers each registered at each of Glendale’s three polling locations. He said at two locations, they challenged every absentee ballot that came in.

“Even for things that are not legally allowed to be challenged on them, they were looking at,” Kennedy said. “When they were asked a number of different times to not hover over the workers … they essentially were just causing disruption.”

Glendale is a Democratic suburb of Milwaukee, which is also a Democratic stronghold. Kennedy said he believed that’s why the poll watchers — who gave their addresses when they registered, and were not from Milwaukee County — targeted the community of under 14,000 residents.

“They did say as they were leaving, ‘You’ll see us again in the end of the month. You’ll see us in August, and you’ll see us in November,’” Kennedy said.

Voters in the Milwaukee area are casting ballots in a special primary election for a state Senate seat left open when former Sen. Lena Taylor resigned after the governor appointed her to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in late January.

Only Democrats are running in Tuesday’s primary. Whoever wins will run unopposed for the open seat in a special general election on July 30.

Kennedy said he thinks the election observers were doing a “practice run” for challenging Democratic votes in the upcoming presidential race.

“This is a way for them to intimidate just Democrats who are voting today and to try and disenfranchise just Democratic voters,” Kennedy said. “That’s exactly what I think they were testing today.”

In their statement, Glendale police noted that the observers who were asked to leave were not asked their political affiliation. Copies of one election observer log posted on social media show that some identified as “Independent” or “Traditionalist,” but not as Republicans.