The Racine County sheriff is recommending charges of felony misconduct in office for all but one member of the state’s Elections Commission for suspending a requirement that clerks send special voting deputies to assisted care facilities before mailing absentee ballots.

GOP appointee Bob Spindell, the only member the sheriff isn’t recommending face charges, supported the original guidance the commission approved 6-0 in March 2020 as nursing homes across the state refused to allow special voting deputies to enter the facilities due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

Sgt. Michael Luell of the Racine County Sheriff’s Office noted while Spindell supported the original advice, he voted against continuing the practice in June and September 2020 as well as January of this year.

“Therefore, the Sheriff’s Office did not feel it was appropriate to refer a charging recommendation on Commissioner Spindell. However, a prosecutor can make any decision they feel is appropriate,” Luell wrote in an email yesterday.

The charging recommendation comes less than a week after Sheriff Chris Schmaling announced details of a 10-month review into allegations that residents of a Racine County assisted care facility may have been coerced into voting despite cognitive decline.

The announcement made no mention of charges against anyone locally, and Luell didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up email.

After Schmaling announced the results of the investigation last week, five of the six commission members signed a statement that they did nothing wrong. They also encouraged charges against anyone who may have coerced a resident to vote.

A commission spokesman referred a reporter to last week’s statement.

Schmaling last week called on Dem AG Josh Kaul to open an investigation into what he details in the department’s investigation. Schmaling said in yesterday’s release he forwarded the charging recommendation because Kaul failed to heed his call.

Kaul called the Racine County sheriff’s charging recommendations a “disgraceful publicity stunt” that shows an “appalling lack of judgment.”

“This is a transparently political effort and an abuse of authority,” he added.

The department is recommending Dem members Ann Jacobs, Mark Thomsen and Julie Glancey and GOP members Marge Bostelmann and Dean Knudson face felony charges of misconduct in office and election fraud. The department is also recommending three misdemeanors for being party to the crime of election fraud.

Yesterday’s statement didn’t include any details specific to each charge. Instead, it referred to last week’s presentation, saying the reasons were clearly explained then.

The Racine County DA’s office said the recommendation had been referred to a lawyer for review.

Special voting deputies were created to supervise voting at care facilities with five or more residents. Instead of providing photo ID, the residents may submit statements to the deputies verifying their names and addresses. Those declarations are then signed by the special voting deputies. Local clerks are required to send the deputies and partisan observers to a residential care facility at least twice before sending an absentee ballot to a resident who requests one.

The commission suspended the requirement because care facilities weren’t allowing special voting deputies to enter due to the pandemic. Suspending the requirement provided more time for residents to receive their absentee ballots and return them.

See the release here.

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