The Racine County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday detailed eight cases of election fraud in 2020 that took place at a nursing home.
The investigation began after a woman identified as "Judy" discovered that her mother, who died before the election, allegedly voted by absentee ballot in the final days of her life, despite experiencing “severe cognitive decline,” to the point that she did not recognize her daughter and had hallucinations.
When she contacted the Ridgewood Care Facility where her mother had been living, asking how that happened, she was told the Wisconsin Elections Commission authorized the facility’s employees to execute the vote, said Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Luell, a former prosecutor, noting that is a “direct violation of the law.”
The woman was told that employees would determine how to mark the ballot based on how the resident told them they voted in the past.
When Sheriff Christopher Schmaling and Luell investigated the issue, voting clerks told them “there was an unusual surge in voting activity at the Ridgewood Care Facility.”
“I think we’re all of the belief and we can embrace the idea that voting is good and there’s nothing wrong with more voting,” Luell said. There is an issue, however, when people are being manipulated and taken advantage of due to their mental state, he explained.
They discussed eight cases in total.
The Sheriff’s Office is alleging that the Wisconsin Elections Commission repeatedly broke the law when it advised municipalities throughout the state to not follow state law and no longer require “Special Voting Deputies” to go into nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typically, SVDs include one Republican volunteer and one Democratic volunteer who go into a nursing home to ensure that those want to vote but cannot physically make it to the polls are able to cast an absentee ballot. That law was waived by a vote of the WEC throughout 2020, which the RCSO alleges is illegal and should be considered “election fraud” under Wisconsin statute. According to the investigation, staff members acted as SVDs, even though state law was supposed to have prohibited this.
In March 2021, Special Voting Deputies — which have no affiliation with a sheriff's deputy other than the name similarity — were again OK’d by the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
The WEC is a six-member board with three Democratic appointees and three Republican appointees. As such, the guidance it passed in a series of votes regarding Special Voting Deputies — which the RCSO alleges broke the law — was bipartisan, often with a 5-1 vote, with Republican Commissioner Dean Knudson typically voting against due to concerns over laws being ignored.
Luell alleged Thursday that not only did the WEC advise that laws be ignored, but also that they failed to find alternatives to traditional SVDs to ensure that people who wanted to act as SVDs could do so in the interest of election integrity. He pointed out that the WEC has been meeting virtually for months, but never advised that perhaps SVDs could also do their work virtually.
Schmaling said that he suspects that the illegality is more widespread, but said that Luell’s investigation dealt only with Ridgewood.
No allegations or evidence of election fraud beyond the eight alleged cases at Ridgewood were made Thursday. (The Journal Times)
"Election statute was in fact not just broken, but shattered by members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission," Schmaling said.
"We're not trying to change one vote," Luell added. "We're not trying to change one election. We're trying to hold the government accountable."
Schmaling said it would be "foolish" to think this election integrity issue only took place at one location in the entire state and called on the attorney general to launch an investigation.