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Evers, liberal allies pushing to get around election integrity laws

Empower Wisconsin | March 28 , 2020

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Liberal elections officials in Dane and Milwaukee counties clearly overreached their authority in advising all voters that they could apply for “indefinitely confined” voting status and skip the state’s voter ID requirements, according to a memo from the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

And at least one lawmaker is demanding Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell and Milwaukee County Clerk George Chistenson be removed from their positions “for their clear abuse of their legal duties.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Evers on Friday afternoon called on the Legislature to change the law to allow every voter to cast their ballots for the April 7 election by mail. The Democrat also wants to extend the time for election officials to count the surge of absentee ballots which, under his plan, could be postmarked on election cay.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) blasted Evers’ idea, which he delivered on video via Twitter, as a “fantasy.”

“Governor Evers just proposed procuring, printing, verifying, and mandating the mailing of millions of ballots within ten days. Even he knows that’s not logistically feasible,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “The clerks of this state should know this is a complete fantasy.The Legislature on both sides of the aisle has to know this is ridiculous. In pitching this idea, the governor is lying directly to Wisconsinites about this even being remotely possible. Acting like this is doable is a hoax. “

“Record numbers of absentee ballots have already been sent out. All registered Wisconsin voters can easily request an absentee ballot from their clerk or online at myvote.wi.gov,” Fitzgerald added.

The election tension continues to build as liberal groups and the Green Bay clerks office push lawsuits seeking to postpone next month election or wipe out voter integrity safeguards such as voter ID.

Clerks McDonnell and Chistenson argue that Evers’ COVID-19-driven emergency edict ordering non-essential workers to stay at home over the next month gives voters in their counties the right to claim “indefinitely confined” voter status and vote absentee without having to provide identification. As the LRB memo notes, that is a specialized category applied to the elderly and infirm.

The many exemptions to Evers shelter-at-home order “demonstrate that not all Wisconsin residents are indefinitely confined to their homes.”

“For this reason, it would seem inconsistent with current law for a clerk or other election official to suggest that every individual in this state is indefinitely confined for purposes of receiving an absentee ballot, and without providing voter identification, because of emergency orders issued by DHS (Department of Health Services) relating to a public health emergency that do not require residents to remain at home for all purposes,” the memo sates.

“Some residents for health reasons may be confined to their homes, but this determination must be made on a case-by-case basis and not applied as a blanket policy to all voters.”

McDonnell told Wisconsin Public Radio this week that his office has been “inundated” with calls from voters, especially the elderly who have had trouble uploading a photo of their ID to the online form requesting a ballot and “indefinitely confined” status.

“We’re all supposed to assume that we are ill, and the people around us are ill, and that’s exactly what it says in the law: if you’re ill, if you’re disabled (and) you’re unable to complete your vote because of that, that’s why this exception is there,” he told WPR.

Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission Friday, a day after Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) did the same.

The term “indefinitely confined” was clearly meant for those with permanent physical disabilities, which represents a fraction of voters, Brandtjen said. By applying the term so broadly, the clerks are abusing the law. It has also provided a “sect of voters to permanently not use their voter IDs, even though they are physically able,” the lawmaker said.

“By willfully advising voters to use this term, and not provide photo ID’s indefinitely, these clerks are illegally gaming the system to mislead voters,” Brandtjen said.

“These Madison and Milwaukee clerks should be removed from their positions for their clear abuse of their legal duties,” she added.

As the Reference Bureau memo notes, there are consequences for clerks and election officials who “intentionally or wilfully neglect their statutory responsibilities.”

“WEC may bring a civil action to require a forfeiture for any violation of chapters 5 to 10 and 12. Under Wis. Stat. §5.05 (1) (d), WEC may also sue for “injunctive relief, a writ of mandamus or prohibition, or other such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to enforce any law regulating the conduct of elections,” the memo states.

Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney did not respond to Empower Wisconsin’s email seeking the identity of the staff member who reportedly advised the Dane County clerk and asking whether the commission would move to stop or discipline the clerks for exceeding their authority.

Late Friday afternoon, the state GOP asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to stop the clerks from implementing their directives to voters. 

The clerks’ unilateral decision is the latest attempt by liberals to try to erode election integrity laws. Evers on Friday said moving to a mail-in election isn’t a “Republican or Democratic issue,” and that he doesn’t care who gets credit. But he and his liberal allies certainly deserve the credit for proposing an end-around to election protections.

“It’s no surprise the liberal clerks in Dane and Milwaukee counties are encouraging people to vote illegally by not providing proper identification,” Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said in a statement. “Democrats continue to look for ways to circumvent the Photo ID law.They’re threatening the integrity of elections and needlessly exposing voters to disenfranchisement.

“It is completely inappropriate for them to use a pandemic to advance their far-left agenda. At a time when our state should be coming together, it’s sad that liberal clerks see it as an opportunity for political gain.”

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