Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

All but one of the Wisconsin Elections Commission members signed on to a statement stating “their opposition to, and strenuous disagreement with the allegations” levied by the Racine County sheriff that they broke the law.

Sheriff Christopher Schmaling alleged the commission broke state law by suspending a requirement that special voting deputies visit assisted care facilities at least twice before local clerks send absentee ballots to residents who request them.

He said that opened the door to possible fraud at a care facility in Racine County.

“To put it simply, we did not break the law,” Chair Ann Jacobs, a Dem appointee, declared after an emergency meeting last night.

State law calls for special voting deputies to make at least two attempts to visit an assisted care facility before local clerks can send absentee ballots to residents who request them. Many care facilities didn’t allow special voting deputies to enter during the pandemic because they weren’t considered essential workers.

When the commission voted on a bipartisan basis to suspend the requirement, some noted concerns that waiting until the deputies had made two unsuccessful attempts to enter a facility before sending a ballot would compress the window for residents to return their absentee ballots.

Schmaling made the allegations against the WEC after a 10-month investigation that followed a complaint from the daughter of a woman who lived at a Racine County assisted care facility and cast a ballot in the 2020 election.

Sgt. Mike Luell, who led the investigation, said he ultimately contacted 42 families who had relatives living at the assisted care facility. Eight expressed concerns that their relatives were in cognitive decline and may have been improperly influenced to vote.

“Nobody should ever be coerced or otherwise influenced as part of exercising their right to vote,” said GOP commissioner Dean Knudson. “We would encourage and expect the full force of the law to investigate that situation and prosecute any identified offenders.”

The only commissioner who didn’t sign on to the statement was GOP appointee Bob Spindell. He told WisPolitics.com yesterday that he took no position on whether the commission broke the law, though he called it “bad judgment.” He originally supported the decision to suspend the requirement before becoming the first member to start calling for the commission to reverse the decision.

See the release here.

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