“In Wisconsin, Election Skeptics Deploy as Poll Watchers for Midterms”


Republicans here are recruiting a fresh batch of poll watchers to monitor voting in November as part of a revamped response to allegations of election fraud that roiled the latest presidential contest.

Poll watching, a normally mundane duty where volunteers sit for hours watching for any possible rule violations at voting sites, is emerging as a flashpoint in the fight over U.S. election rules after former President Donald Trump falsely claimed that widespread election fraud cost him the 2020 race. The Republican National Committee said it has launched a multimillion-dollar effort to recruit tens of thousands of poll watchers and poll workers and hire dozens of staff to monitor voting.

Many Republican voters are heading into the midterms still skeptical about the results of the 2020 election, and the Republican Party is encouraging them to channel those concerns into activism by volunteering to monitor the polls. Some Republicans view the effort as a way to ensure that Mr. Trump’s fraud claims don’t prompt supporters to skip the election altogether because of doubts about the validity of the process.

Democrats are raising concerns that highly partisan volunteers could try to intimidate voters or election officials.

Here in Brown County, Wis., the local Republican party says it has signed up more than 100 poll watchers and is working to recruit more volunteers. Mr. Trump won Brown County in 2020 with some 53% of the vote. Wisconsin flipped from supporting Mr. Trump in 2016 to being won by Democrat Joe Biden by about 20,700 votes in 2020.

Ken Glowacki, a 70-year-old retiree who used to own a fiberglass-manufacturing company, said he signed up to monitor the polls for the first time because he is unsure that the 2020 election was fair. On the day of Wisconsin’s August primary, Mr. Glowacki sat in an armchair alongside a handful of other observers, watching a polling place at a Catholic church in the city of Green Bay.

Mr. Glowacki said that in his view Democrats used the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to change election rules, such as expanding absentee-ballot drop boxes, which proliferated during the pandemic but are no longer allowed in Wisconsin after a July court ruling.

“It’s easy to complain about it,” said Mr. Glowacki in describing why he decided to volunteer. “It’s another thing to say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s go and observe and see for myself.’ ”

Democrats and voting-rights advocates have long warned that unruly poll watchers could lead to intimidation, which could especially affect minority voters, who have historically faced discrimination.

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