GREEN BAY, Wis. –– The Southern Poverty Law Center is facing pushback as they warn of armed right wing militias intimidating voters at polling places in battleground states like Wisconsin.

The SPLC held a news briefing Friday in which it warned the public of the potential far right extremists and militia groups showing up at polling locations before, during, and after the election.

“From White nationalist seeking a white ethnostate to anti-government extremists planning for a civil war,” says Lindsay Schubiner, Momentum Program Director for the Western States Center, “the threat of violence is real and particularly if they perceive a green light from the highest office in the land.”

Leaders with the SPLC point to incidents during the spring and summer where militia groups took to American streets during protests against health orders and protests against injustice. The group says what happen in Kenosha during the protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake when 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse allegedly shot three people, killing two of them, is evidence of what could potentially happen if leaders and law enforcement don’t keep armed groups in check. Rittenhouse came to the protest armed with a rifle.

SPLC Deputy Legal Director Nancy Abudu says any armed group that shows up at a polling place could made voters uncomfortable enough to leave the area without voting, suppression the vote in the process.

“The advice is for voters and volunteers not to engage,” Abudu says. “It is not their responsibility to deal with those kinds of agitators.”

While the SPLC issued the warning Friday, even they admit there isn’t much evidence of instances where armed groups have shown up at polling places during this election.

“Far more often than not, someone’s experience at a polling place will be uneventful and completely predictable, and I think that that is something that is worth focusing on,” says the groups senior research analyst Cassie Miller. “Militia activity and far right activity is going to be an aberration, and it should be treated as such, and not blown out of proportion and made out to be a much larger threat than it is because that has the potential to intimidate people and discourage them from coming out to the polls.”

Wisconsin State Senator Andrew Jacque, (R) De Pere, says the SPLC’s is unnecessarily spreading fear during a contentious election.

“I think what the Southern Poverty Law Center is saying is irresponsible particularly with everything else going on in our country right now,” Jacque says. “I think any effort right now to stoke the fires of political discourse like what I’m seeing Southern Poverty Law Center appear to do is frankly not helpful.”

Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith says he took part in a virtual meeting with the SPLC last week in which the group raised the same concerns. Smith says he understands why they’re concerned but believes that concern “may be too much. We have zero intell that any right wing extremists are going to do anything. I’m an optimist, but I recognize that is not an effective strategy. We are well equipped and prepared for anything.”

The Green Bay Common Council voted this month to prohibit firearms at city polling places during the election to ease fears poll workers had over guns at the polls.