More on the Dane County Jail Vote Controversy

MacIver News Service | October 16, 2012

[Madison, Wisc…] It turns out the Wisconsin Department of Justice was contacted by the Dane County Sheriff’s Department about running inmates’ records through the state’s system to determine voting status.

On Monday, Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney told the MacIver News Service DOJ said he couldn’t use the state’s Criminal Information Bureau system to check voting eligibility. A DOJ spokeswoman, however, told MNS it had not yet responded to the Sheriff’s inquiry.

“Sheriff Mahoney has requested some guidance from us on this. We are looking at the issue, and we’ll get back to him,” said Dana Brueck, DOJ communications officer.

In fact, yesterday, the Department spokesperson could not confirm Sheriff Mahoney had received any guidance from DOJ on the matter.

“I checked with the people in the Crime Information Bureau and no one there said they’ve spoken with him,” Brueck said.

After the initial MNS story ran, Brueck contacted MNS with an update.

“I had checked with those in CIB who’d normally handle a question of that kind, and no one had spoken with the Sheriff about it,” Brueck said. “It turns out, an employee at the Dane Co Sheriff’s Office did indeed talk with an employee at the CIB.”

Brueck added it was a moot point because Mahoney would not need to rely on CIB to determine a jail inmate’s eligibility, “the Sheriff has access to inmates’ records/histories as part of law enforcement.”

The Dane County Sheriff’s Department had come under scrutiny last week when a memo surfaced concerning how deputies should handle absentee voting by felons. 

Some people, including at least one anonymous deputy, interpreted the memo to mean deputies should not do anything to prevent felons from voting illegally.
Sheriff Mahoney now says Twombly sent that memo on his own initiative but that the content of the memo have been misrepresented in the media. 

Mahoney said his deputies were not instructed to disregard inmates’ felony voting status if they attempt to vote absentee. 

“There’s nothing in the memo that says to disregard a prisoner’s felony status,” Mahoney said. “I’m carrying forward the same policies and practice that have been in place for the 2008 and the 2004 election.” 

The memo states deputies are to provide inmates with pens to fill out ballots and allow the ballots to be mailed out. Mahoney said deputies were also instructed to take action if they know an inmate is attempting to cast an illegal ballot.

“If a deputy is aware that a person is serving a felony sentence, they should immediately contact the supervisor and we will contact the county clerk,” he told MNS. 

Such direction, however, was not included in the Twombly memo that was sent to the jail sergeants for the first, second and third shifts.