Racine Co. sheriff accused WEC of violating election laws
STURTEVANT, Wis. (WMTV) - The Racine County sheriff is accusing the Wisconsin Elections Commission of breaking the law by telling local elections officials not to send poll workers into nursing homes to assist residents with voting last year.
Sheriff Christopher Schmaling on Thursday called on the Wisconsin Department of Justice to launch a statewide investigation.
Schmaling, a Republican who was first elected sheriff in 2010 and supported Trump in 2020, says the justice department has already turned down his request once.
A department spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
A nonpartisan election audit released last week determined that the elections commission did not follow the law when it stopped poll workers from going to nursing homes.
During a news conference, the Sheriff’s Office explained that it launched its inquiry after receiving a complaint from a woman who told investigators that her mother, who had died nearly a month before Election Day, had voted absentee from the nursing home where she lived. Because of her mother’s condition prior to her death, the woman was not sure about her ability to have voted and reached out to the home, and eventually the Wisconsin Election Commission.
The WEC referred the case to the Racine Co. District Attorney’s Office, which asked the Sheriff’s Office to investigate.
In an emergency meeting by the WEC Thursday after the accusations went out, the commission stated their opposition to the allegations.
“To put it simply, we did not break the law,” Commission Chair Ann Jacobs, said. “In fact, without action from the Commission, many residents in Wisconsin care facilities could have and would have been disenfranchised and not able to vote in the 2020 elections.”
“The Commission finds it horrifying and offensive if that sort of thing happened in Racine, or anywhere in Wisconsin,” Commissioner Dean Knudson said. “Nobody should ever be coerced or otherwise influenced as part of exercising their right to vote. We would encourage and expect the full force of the law to investigate that situation and prosecute any identified offenders.”
All recounts have upheld that President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the statewide race and no subsequent reviews have found any evidence of large-scale fraud. The recently released Legislative Audit Bureau audit identified inconsistent administration of election law based on surveys of ballots it reviewed across the state, but also determined there was no widespread fraud.
The results lead a key Republican Senator, state Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), to call the state’s elections are “safe and secure.” Cowles co-chairs the Legislature’s Audit Committee which authorized the LAB’s audit.
He did note the agency’s report leads to bi-partisan fixes for some of the issues identified in the audit, made 30 recommendations for the Wisconsin Elections Commission to consider and 18 possible legal changes for the Legislature. Senate Majority Leader Devin Lemahieu, however, argued the report showed the state’s elections commission did not follow the law in a statement announcing the Senate’s investigation.
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