Dem AG Josh Kaul said it would be “stunning” if five members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission are criminally charged for acting in good faith while doing their jobs.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said the commission broke the law when it voted to suspend trained poll assistants, called special voting deputies, from going into nursing homes during the pandemic last year.
Schmaling, who says his office conducted a 10-month investigation into possible illegal voting at a Mount Pleasant nursing home, contends the commission’s action may have led to voter fraud. He recommended the Racine County District Attorney pursue criminal charges against the commissioners who voted to suspend the special voting deputies.
A WEC statement said commissioners did not break the law and the WEC has a “strenuous disagreement” with the sheriff’s allegations.
Kaul spoke out in an interview aired Sunday on “UpFront,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
“Do you think that the Racine County DA will decide to go ahead with charges?” program host Adrienne Pedersen asked Kaul.
“That’s her decision. I don’t know exactly what information is being provided to her. But based on what we’ve seen, made publicly available so far, it would be a stunning act to charge state appointees who are acting in good faith,” Kaul said.
“You know, in a democracy, we have political disagreements. But we don’t resolve them with criminal charges,” he said. “That’s not how our system works, and it’s not how our system should work.”
The Racine County Sheriff’s Office declined an invitation for Schmaling to appear on the “UpFront” program.
“Clearly, this is an effort to attract publicity by the sheriff,” Kaul said.
Pedersen also asked Kaul why the Department of Justice did not investigate the allegations of voter fraud at the nursing home.
Kaul said DOJ had two meetings with Schmaling’s office and told the Racine County investigators they needed to conduct additional interviews.
“We then didn’t hear from them again for months until this big dramatic press conference,” Kaul said. “There are serious concerns here that this is being pursued for political ends, so if there is credible evidence of fraud, we are happy to work with DA’s offices and investigators, but we don’t have the kind of evidence here that would justify a statewide investigation.”
Also on the program, UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden discussed whether election investigations, audits and reviews are causing voters to be less confident in voting.
See more from the program here.