Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 11, 2020
MADISON — As the Trump campaign argued Thursday in state and federal courts about the legitimacy of thousands of Wisconsin presidential election votes, new video surfaced showing Milwaukee County elections officials acknowledging they screwed up during the recent ballot recount.
In video exclusively obtained by Empower Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson confirms contracted ballot counters fed ballots into machines without observers being able to watch, long after the Board of Canvassers shut down the recount for the night.
And it wasn’t just a few ballots, Christenson conceded to the board.
“There were stacks, and that is not acceptable,” the clerk said.
‘You couldn’t see’
It was early on in last month’s partial presidential election ballot recount of Milwaukee and Dane counties. The Trump campaign, raising numerous vote fraud and election irregularity concerns, paid $3 million to double-check the votes cast in Wisconsin’s liberal strongholds.
In the video, a representative from the Trump campaign appears before the three-member (two Democrats, one Republican) Board of Canvassers the day after the blind count occurred.
He said it was around 8:05 p.m. when the board ordered the recount to halt for the day. Attorneys and observers from the Trump and Joe Biden campaigns were told there were but “a few” ballots left to run through a machine.
About 8:30 p.m., an observer for the Trump campaign told the attorney that workers were still running ballots. He and Cedarburg attorney Joe Voiland walked over to the back of the 180,000 square-foot Milwaukee Center where the recount took place. They found two machines running.
Voiland said even if the Board of Canvassers had been present, the machine counting was out of their line of sight.
“You couldn’t see what was going on in this huge arena,” he said.
It was a big problem. Attorneys and observers must be able to observe what is going on in the recount, in accordance with state election law. As Empower Wisconsin has reported, liberal elections supervisors made it extremely difficult for Trump campaign volunteers to observe throughout the recount. At this point, the voting system firm with whom the county contracted was feeding ballots for over approximately 40 minutes without anyone knowing.
The contractor, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), on its website says its mission is to “provide products and services of exceptional quality and value to maintain voter confidence and enhance the voting experience.”
An AP story a week after the Nov. 3 election that read more like an ad asserted elections officials around the country were “praising the performance of the people, processes and equipment that made the election administration a success.” The story quotes Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg, who called the ES&S operation “smooth, accurate and transparent.”
Voiland and others aren’t sold.
Voiland said after he and the Trump campaign representative finally convinced Christenson to take a look at what was going on, the clerk ordered ES&S employees to stop feeding ballots into the machine. They told the county clerk that they were under the impression they could finish their entire count.
“They were actually reconstructing ballots,” Voiland said. “The torn and ripped ones that you need to remake the ballots for, they were putting those through the machine, and no Milwaukee County election official was there observing this happening.”
“I just want to put on the record that we were totally unable to observe any of that (the ballot counting that had occurred),” the Trump attorney told the board. “And this is just an indication that we have to tighten this ship up because we are floating in perilous waters here with these kind of things going on.”
Christenson confirmed and agreed.
“Mr. Chairman, in response, I would like to point out that counsel’s recollection of that in respect to time is accurate,” the clerk said. “We had indicated, I think everybody at this commission … understood there were a few ballots being run”
“I specifically remember saying about this many… It was not this much,” the clerk added, motioning with his hands. “There were stacks and that is not acceptable. I would agree.”
Christenson recommended the board determine what the daily “hard stop” is at the end of the night, and stick to it. The board agreed, adding that they wouldn’t make the final call “abrupt,” but would give time for the parties to gather their things before closing everything down for the evening.
’Normal margin of error’
Voiland said the board allowed a recount of the ballots — from the city of Wauwatosa — in question. When the recount of the recount came back, three votes for Trump mysteriously “disappeared,” the attorney said. Elections officials said the lost votes were within the “normal margin of error,” Voiland said.
That “normal margin of error” raised bigger questions, issues the Trump campaign has raised in its lawsuits challenging Biden’s 20,600-vote win of battleground Wisconsin. The questions loom all the larger amid accusations that election equipment provider Dominion Voting Systems was involved in a vote-switching scheme, charges Dominion vehemently has denied.
“If that happened in one ward, in one town, that could happen thousands of times throughout the state,” Voiland said. And that could mean a different outcome in the competition for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.
Watch the video here.