Milwaukee’s Electioneering Mess

Dan O’Donnell breaks big news about the City of Milwaukee partnering with nonprofits and a Democrat election group on its new “Milwaukee Votes 2022” get-out-the-vote initiative


Sep. 14, 2022
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell


Less than two years after the five most heavily Democratic cities in Wisconsin accepted millions of dollars in grant money from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to facilitate a takeover of election administration by liberal partisans, one of those cities is back at it.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson announced in a press conference Monday that the City would be running a privately funded get-out-the-vote initiative that is rather obviously designed to juice Democrat turnout.

“‘Milwaukee Votes 2022’ will have door-to-door canvassers that will be underway, funded by the private sector,” the mayor explained.  “Dozens of canvassers will be face to face with eligible voters, encouraging them to exercise their right to vote for the November election.”       

Within hours, Johnson’s office was in full spin mode, claiming that the mayor didn’t really say what he most definitely said.

“The city is neither receiving nor providing any funds related to the work of ‘Milwaukee Votes 2022,’” explained Johnson spokesman Jeff Fleming.  “The group is privately funded, not-for-profit, and non-partisan.  The association [between the group and the city] is limited to the Mayor voicing support for the work.”

This, according to Johnson himself, is untrue.  

“We’re doing more, and I’m going to be embracing outreach and engagement through what we’re calling ‘Milwaukee Votes 2022,’” he said during his news conference.  “As part of that, you will soon see a new website widget on many website pages.”

A link to the “Milwaukee Votes 2022” initiative on official city pages is a valuable allocation of city resources, as it gives the initiative a high-profile, high-traffic place in the city’s digital space.  It also indicates a deep level of coordination between the city and the “Milwaukee Votes 2022” get-out-the-vote effort.

Bizarrely, Fleming claimed not to know who exactly is funding this effort and directed all questions to GPS Impact’s Melissa Baldauff, who is apparently coordinating it and attended Johnson’s press conference Monday.




According to its website, GPS Impact is a full-service political agency that “has helped Democrats, progressive organizations and initiatives, and elected officials win in red states, including Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Louisiana and Ohio.”  It touts its experience in running “voter registration” and handling “ballot requesters.”

Baldauff, a longtime Democrat political operative who worked for the Wisconsin Democratic Party and served as Governor Tony Evers’ spokeswoman before joining GPS Impact last year, claims that she is not working on the “Milwaukee Votes 2022” initiative in her official capacity, but is rather informally advising several of the nonprofits involved.

“Neither I nor GPS Impact are working for the City of Milwaukee, receiving taxpayer dollars from the City of Milwaukee, or running a canvass in Milwaukee,” she said in an email.



To recap: Mayor Johnson held a press conference to announce a public-private voter drive that will be featured on official city webpages but somehow misspoke and didn’t realize that the city has absolutely nothing to do with “Milwaukee Votes 2022.”  And somehow the Democrat operative who works for a Democrat firm that specializes in voter drives and who attended Johnson’s press conference has nothing to do with Milwaukee’s voter drive.  Oh, and no one can say for certain who exactly is paying for it.

Got all that?  It defies both common sense and recent history to believe that the City of Milwaukee has nothing to do with this.  Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Milwaukee accepted Zuckerberg’s grant money and allowed the partisan liberal Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) unprecedented access to the city’s voter database.    

Emails reveal that the group’s Wisconsin lead, Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, even asked Milwaukee Election Commissioner Claire Woodall-Vogg to provide him with access to the city’s voter database.  She declined, claiming to be “[un]comfortable having a non-staff member involved in the function of our voter database.”  Still, she continued to provide him with daily updates on which citizens had not yet returned their absentee ballots, essentially helping CTCL with a massive ballot harvesting operation.

Nothing in Wisconsin law allows for this, and the acceptance of private money to help run election operations may even run afoul of statutes prohibiting election bribery.  Get-out-the-vote efforts are partisan operations for which political parties and candidates pay small fortunes.  Having government run it in a city that votes 80 percent Democrat is obviously a massive advantage.

And Republicans aren’t standing for it.

“We are demanding that the City of Milwaukee immediately cease assisting a privately-funded, liberal group in their efforts to only engage with and turn out certain voters,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Petersen, and Wisconsin Elections Commission chairman Don Millis said in a statement.  “The City of Milwaukee’s promotion and coordination of potentially illegal activities under the guise of canvassing is why Wisconsin voters have lost confidence in our elections. It is inappropriate for any municipality to support a get-out-the-vote campaign.”

Representative Janel Brandtjen, chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, has launched an investigation into Milwaukee’s activity and filed multiple open records requests seeking further information about which groups are involved and just who is funding “Milwaukee Votes 2022.”

“There is no question that third party partisan money continues to be used in collusion with election officials in heavily Democrat areas to help Democrat candidates win elections,” Brandtjen said.  “It is time we get to the bottom of this unethical and illegal activity.”

It most certainly is, because the City of Milwaukee sure isn’t volunteering any information about the program Mayor Johnson was so proud of just a few days ago.