Photo curtesy of Léa Aliberti.
The bipartisan body tasked with administering elections has instead spent the past year tilting the scales for Joe Biden
November 5, 2020
Guest perspective by Dan O’Donnell
To the world, the Joe Biden presidential campaign in Wisconsin began when he won the state’s presidential primary in April. To those who understand how Biden really captured Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes (pending a likely recount), however, the campaign to deliver him the Badger State really began in October of 2019.
That month, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC)—the bipartisan board tasked with administering the state’s elections—indicated that it would ignore Wisconsin law by refusing to remove from the state’s voter rolls the names of 234,000 people who had moved either out of state or to a different city in Wisconsin.
Once those names are flagged by the multi-state Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) database, Wisconsin Statute § 6.50(3) requires the WEC to “notify the elector by mailing a notice by first class mail to the elector’s registration address stating the source of the information.” If they do not reply and “apply for continuation of registration within 30 days of the date the notice is mailed, the clerk or board of election commissioners shall change the elector’s registration from eligible to ineligible status.”
The law is crystal clear: If a voter does not respond and apply for continuation within 30 days, his or her name is to be removed from the voter rolls immediately. This does not, of course, disenfranchise those voters since they are still registered to vote at their new address. It simply removes the old, defunct name and address (in effect a “phantom” voter) from the rolls.
Even if a voter is incorrectly flagged (as three to five percent may be), Wisconsin has same-day voter registration and a person wrongly removed from the rolls can simply re-register on Election Day.
There is no legitimate reason for keeping these 234,000 names on the voter rolls, but the WEC did. Instead of following the law, the WEC invented its own and refused to deactivate these phantom voters for a further 12 to 24 months, allowing them to vote in the presidential primary and general elections.
Needless to say, the potential for massive voter fraud is very high with the existence of more than 200,000 different names on Wisconsin’s voter rolls that don’t correspond to an actual voter (since the actual voter is either in another state or registered at a different address within Wisconsin).
After the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) sued the WEC, an Ozaukee County Circuit Court judge ordered election commissioners to remove the names from the rolls. They refused.
The judge held them in contempt of court and ordered them to pay a fine each day they refused to follow his order, but instead of complying, the WEC’s three Democrat-appointed commissioners—Mark Thomsen, Ann Jacobs, and Julie Glancey—filed an appeal.
The Fourth District Court of Appeals had twice before declined the WEC’s requests to throw out the order, but once it became clear that commissioners would actually have to remove the names from the rolls, the District Court’s three liberal judges—JoAnne Kloppenburg, Jennifer Nashold, and Michael Fitzpatrick—remarkably reversed course and allowed the WEC to continue to ignore the clear letter and intent of state law and keep 234,000 phantom voters on Wisconsin’s rolls for as long as two years.
The one protection Wisconsin had against the use of these phantom voters to commit massive fraud would be the state’s Voter ID law, but unethical county clerks in Dane and Milwaukee Counties found a loophole that rendered this protection largely moot.
As the COVID-19 pandemic raged in advance of Wisconsin’s presidential primary in early April, both Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell and Milwaukee County Clerk George Christensen—both highly partisan Democrats—told all voters to claim that the statewide lockdown rendered them “indefinitely confined” under state law. As a result, they would not need to show photo identification in order to vote by mail.
Because of the lockdown, McDonnell and Christensen lied, every single voter was indefinitely confined to their homes and therefore not bound by the Voter ID requirement. Since Governor Evers’ lockdown order allowed people to leave their homes to work at jobs deemed to be “essential” and shop at grocery stores, hardware stores, and even sporting goods and liquor stores, merely being affected by the lockdown did not render one indefinitely confined.
McDonnell and Christensen clearly knew this, but they still encouraged voters to unlawfully designate themselves as indefinitely confined and thus avoid the Voter ID requirement. Fraudulently voting by mail by assuming the identity of any of the 234,000 phantom voters still on the state’s rolls could not possibly have been easier.
The MacIver Institute found that nearly 200,000 voters marked themselves as indefinitely confined ahead of Wisconsin’s presidential primary and an additional 49,769 did so in the six months since, meaning that nearly a quarter of a million voters are now designated as indefinitely confined and thus exempt from Voter ID requirements.
By way of comparison, a total of just 72,000 voters last year were indefinitely confined, meaning that there has been a 238 percent increase in indefinitely confined voters in just 12 months. Obviously, most of them aren’t actually indefinitely confined but all of them were able to vote without showing a photo ID.
And none of them were able to vote for third party candidates who might have siphoned a few thousand votes away from Joe Biden. In 2016, Democrats blamed Green Party candidate Jill Stein for costing Hillary Clinton Wisconsin and with it the presidency. She won roughly 31,000 votes that might have otherwise gone for Clinton—a total that far surpassed the 22,000 votes by which Clinton lost to Trump.
The Democrats on the Wisconsin Elections Commission were not about to let that happen again, so they ignored state law in denying the Green Party’s 2020 candidate Howie Hawkins’ petition to get on the ballot.
In August, Hawkins and his running mate Angela Walker submitted a nominating petition with 3,966 signatures. A candidate only needs 2,000 to get on the presidential ballot in Wisconsin, and Hawkins and Walker had nearly twice that many. Walker, however, moved during the time the signatures were collected and two days after she and Hawkins turned in their signatures to the WEC, longtime Democrat lawyer and donor Allen Arnsten challenged them, claiming that Walker had listed an incorrect address on a number of petitions and that 2,046 signatures on them should be invalidated.
In his challenge, Arnsten admitted that he had no proof that the address was incorrect, he merely asserted “information and belief.” Since Section 2.07(3)(a) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code provides that “the burden is on the challenger to establish any insufficiency” in nominating signatures and Section 2.05(4) provides that “any information which appears on a nomination paper is entitled to a presumption of validity,” Arnsten was required to provide evidence that the signatures were invalid or else they would be presumed to be valid.
When the WEC met to discuss the issue, Chairwoman Ann Jacobs wouldn’t allow the Green Party’s attorney to argue the case. She merely called for a vote and, unsurprisingly, the Commission’s three Democrats voted to ignore the clear letter of the law, presume the signatures to be invalid even though they weren’t, and keep the Green Party off the ballot.
That same month, the WEC rejected rapper Kanye West’s petition for access to Wisconsin’s ballot because his attorney was allegedly 14 seconds late in delivering West’s nominating signatures. West, who was seen as potentially as big a threat to pull votes from Biden as the Green Party, launched a third party bid for the White House over the summer and sent an attorney to the WEC office in Madison on the day nominating petitions were due.
Wisconsin law requires that petitions be turned in by 5:00 pm on the first Tuesday in August before a November election. West’s attorney turned them in at 5:00:14. Clearly, West’s campaign argued, the plain meaning of “not later than 5:00,” means 5:01, not 5:00:14. 5:00:14 is included in the minute that precedes the time—5:01—that is, according to the plain meaning of the phrase, “later than 5:00.” The Democrats on the Elections Commission disagreed and ruled that West would not be on the presidential ballot.
Because of a pair of legally dubious (if not flatly unlawful) rulings, Biden would not have any competition for votes from Democrat-leaning Wisconsinites. The WEC, along with election officials in Madison, then got to work ensuring that Biden would get as many questionable votes as possible.
On Saturday, September 26th and Saturday, October 3rd, the City of Madison held “Democracy in the Park” events in which voters could drop off their absentee ballots in a direct violation of early voting limits.
In June, a federal appeals court limited in-person early voting to 14 days before Election Day. This year, in-person early voting could not start until October 20th. In an obvious attempt to boost turnout for Biden in the state’s most heavily Democratic city, Madison wantonly violated this deadline by allowing voters to fill out and turn in their ballots in each one of the city’s parks.
When contacted with concerns over this and asked to investigate, the Wisconsin Elections Commission refused, saying that it was the City of Madison’s job to monitor this event. In other words, the body tasked with overseeing election activities in Wisconsin was refusing to oversee election activities in Wisconsin.
The City of Madison vehemently denied that its events amounted to illegal early voting since voters were not given absentee ballots in the parks; they simply dropped off the ballots that had been mailed to them. The poll workers collecting ballots (and helping voters fill them out) in 206 different parks across the city were merely operating alternative ballot drop-off locations.
That, however, violates both the letter and spirit of Wisconsin Statute § 6.855, which provides that these alternative sites “shall be located as near as practicable to the office of the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners and no site may be designated that affords an advantage to any political party.”
Clearly, alternative sites located in every single one of Madison’s 206 city parks—including those that are located many miles from the municipal clerk’s office—are not “located as near as practicable” and thus are not valid locations for anything other than harvesting ballots for a preferred presidential candidate.
Biden was rather obviously the preferred candidate, as his campaign advertised the Madison’s two events on radio stations across the city. The standard “I’m Joe Biden and I approve this message” disclaimer ended the commercial, and the Biden “WI 2020 Victory” website promoted the events as being “hosted by WI 2020 Victory.”
In other words, the Biden campaign clearly saw them as being designed to turn out votes for Biden. Why else would they pay to promote them?
When concerns were raised about the legality of the City of Madison’s activity and the Wisconsin Republican Party sent a letter to City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl instructing her to keep all ballots collected at the event segregated in anticipation of a possible lawsuit, she instead raced back to her office to mix those ballots in with other presumably legally-collected ones so that it would be impossible to challenge them.
A month later, on Election Night itself, the City of Milwaukee courted controversy by waiting until every other municipality in the state had reported its vote totals to release its count of mail-in votes. In 2018, late-counted ballots tipped the gubernatorial election from a comfortable win for Republican Scott Walker to a 1.1 percent victory for Democrat Tony Evers. Almost exactly two years later, the almost exact same scenario played out Wednesday morning. After the rest of Wisconsin reported its vote totals and Trump sat on a comfortable lead, Milwaukee’s late-counted vote tipped the race to a 20,000 vote Biden lead.
For a second straight election, the City of Milwaukee seemed to have waited until officials knew exactly how many votes needed to be counted to ensure a statewide Democrat win. As one frustrated voter put it on Twitter, “The only thing we did on Election Day was tell them how many votes they needed on Election Night.”
One can certainly understand the mistrust. For more than a year, the Wisconsin Elections Commission and local election officials in the two most heavily Democratic counties in the state have done everything in their power to make a Biden win an inevitability. From keeping hundreds of thousands of phantom voters on the rolls to negating the Voter ID requirement for a quarter million more, the WEC and Dane and Milwaukee County clerks made massive vote fraud easier than it ever has been. By unlawfully clearing the field of potential Biden spoilers, the WEC did its level best to ensure that he had no competition for Democrat-leaning votes. And by refusing to investigate an obviously unlawful vote-in-the park event on Biden’s behalf (and in conjunction with his campaign), it allowed untold thousands of legally questionable ballots to be cast.
For more than a year, the Democrats on the Wisconsin Elections Commission as well as the Democratic clerks in Dane and Milwaukee Counties and the cities of Madison and Milwaukee have made it abundantly clear that they have no interest in ensuring free and fair elections in Wisconsin. Quite the opposite: They have spent the past year doing everything in their power to prove that they can no longer be trusted to safeguard Wisconsinites’ most sacred and cherished right.
They have been running a yearlong shadow campaign to elect Joe Biden, and at every step have placed their thumb on the scales of electoral justice. In truth, there can be no justice when there aren’t fair elections, and Wisconsin won’t have fair elections until it decides that it’s had enough of shameless partisans pretending to be neutral stewards of the public trust.
They have proven beyond any doubt over the past year that they are no longer worthy of any trust.