Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 30, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Milwaukee County elections officials and their liberal allies insist there was no voter fraud in the presidential election. Witnesses to the Election Day ballot count say what they saw disputes those assertions.
From failing to follow state election law to preventing observers from, well, observing, the people running the polls in Wisconsin’s largest — and one of its most liberal — counties have created a pervasive sense of distrust. And the elections mess led Wisconsin conservatives, not just President Donald Trump, to demand a recount in Dane and Milwaukee counties.
Affidavits and written accounts obtained by Empower Wisconsin show the grave concerns poll workers and observers at Milwaukee’s Central Count location voiced to Claire-Woodall-Vogg, Milwaukee’s chief election official, and other supervisors. Their concerns were overruled or ignored. But their accounts assisted attorneys for the president and election integrity groups in filing lawsuits and the petition for the partial Wisconsin recount.
The recount, as Empower Wisconsin has reported, has been marred by the same questionable practices, particularly in Milwaukee County.
Today, we feature the testimony of four individuals at Central Count on Election Day.
Ignore the law
Jean Weymier was appointed as an Independent elections observer at the Central Count Precinct, located at 501 W. Michigan Street in Milwaukee on Election Day, according to her declaration, notarized on Nov. 16.
She said she arrived at 6 a.m. and checked in at 7 a.m.
Woodall-Vogg and other elections officials “made it difficult for election observers to truly observe all ballots being processed at all times.”
“First, they only allowed one chair for every four tables, and if more than one person was at that chair (standing or sitting), Claire, Brenda or one of the other supervisors under them made us go to the edge of the bank of tables (i.e., even further away),” Weymier stated.
“We were repeatedly not allowed to access observing the second and third rows deep of tables away from our observation line. Those tables were AT LEAST 22-24 feet and 32-34 feet (and possibly even further) from where we were allowed to observe from, respectively. We (and anyone with average eyesight) could not possibly see any of the ballot or ballot envelopes from this distances.”
Perhaps more troubling, Weymier stated, was that Milwaukee elections officials told poll workers to disregard state law.
As Empower Wisconsin previously reported, ballot counters in Milwaukee were instructed to fill out missing information on absentee ballot envelopes/certifications, particularly witness addresses. That may be in line with 2016 guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, but it defies state election law, which states the voter — not the municipal poll worker — must fix the omission, according to Wisconsin elections law experts.
Weymier further stated:
“There were a few announcements made to the whole room. 1) If there were any addresses missing, they were to take the ballot to the computer in the back of the room and look up the address and fill it in. We were told to disregard any red marks on the envelope such as the spot where they say how long they have lived at an address. Everything we were trained to be watching for they told us to ignore — that it didn’t make a difference.”
Lori Merner, who worked as a “ballot numbering worker” on Election Day at Central Count, corroborates Weymier’s statements. Merner, who stated she worked from 6 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. on that long Election Day, noted ballots in question were marked in red pen.
“Soon after the actual numbering started, Claire Woodall-Vogg announced to everyone (over a microphone) that she was aware of the ‘red pen’ issue. We were instructed to NOT challenge any of these ballots because the challenge ‘would not be heard.’ CWV [Woodall-Vogg] also announced to report any missing witness addresses so that they could fix them right there.”
Merner observed something else that raised red flags.
“I noticed (Ward 85) a number of addresses with 5+ people all with the same last name having mail-in ballots. Maybe legit, but enough to catch my attention. I finished numbering Ward 91 and in the final 300 ballots had 3 instances of duplicate ballots. While logging them on GAB-104 form, I noticed there were more before that,” she stated.
Dan Miller also worked at Central Count on Election Day. He stated in his affidavit that he began in Milwaukee’s Ward No. 25, checking for illegal absentee ballots.
Miller began setting aside ballots that had crossed out in red pen the state’s former 10-day residency requirement. Voters must reside at their address for at least 28 days before an election. The requirement was struck down by a federal judge in 2016 and changed to 10 days, but an appeals court in June restored the original 28-day requirement. Clerks around the state had printed absentee ballot envelopes with the 10-day residency requirement. So the Wisconsin Elections Commission in another complicating move decided municipal clerks could use the envelopes but cross out the invalid 10-day requirement and write in 28 days.
“I noticed that some of the ballots read “10″ which was crossed out, and “28” was written in, but then some were printed with “28”, but were crossed out and written in with a “10.” I raised my “yellow China fan” to indicate I had ballots(s) to challenge and the Pod overseer guy said they were all ok,” Miller stated.
“It didn’t take very long for the organizers of Central Count to get on the mic to tell everyone that they were not going to accept any challenges on Statute 6.87(2), nor were they going to accept any challenges on the address of the witness written in red in on the ballot.
Bart Williams served as an Independent election observer with Weymier. He said he was forced to wait at least an hour and a half before he could begin observing the count. He stated in his notorized declaration that he was excluded from the first 30 minutes of ballot processing.
Williams stated that elections officials “refused to allow me to remain in an unobtrusive area of the ballot-processing/counting location from which I reasonably could see and hear what was occurring for the vast majority (at least two-thirds) of the tables being used for ballot processing/counting.”
He said supervisors also stopped him from keeping a list of voters — beyond the five he had logged — with ballot defects that Williams “genuinely believe were tampered with (in violation of the state of Wisconsin Constitution and/or applicable Wisconsin statutes) by the ballot processing/counting leadership and/or staff.”
And he said they refused to allow him to challenge several of the qualification of a legal, valid and complete ballot, including required absentee ballot witness information.
Elections workers and observers described the demeanor of the Milwaukee Central Count elections officials as hostile, just as Trump campaign and Republican Party observers have described elections officials presiding over the Milwaukee County recount.
“Overall, Claire, Brenda, and the rest of the election staff, including the Democrat poll observers, seemed hostile to our questions and observing in every interaction we had with them. We were definitely in a hostile environment and we were discouraged in any way to be able to complete the job we were there to do,” Weymier stated.
The recount wrapped up on Sunday, finding little change to the original ballot count. Democrat candidate Joe Biden’s lead over Republican President Donald Trump in Wisconsin remained 20,608 votes. It remains so because elections officials in the two liberal counties ignored or overruled the objections of Trump campaign observers, as they did to poll workers and observers on Election Day.
It appeared Sunday that the matter may be heading to court.
A Trump campaign observer of the Milwaukee County recount told Empower Wisconsin last week that even if elections officials didn’t break the law, they did little to remove the appearance of doing so.
“I do know the perception of transparency is being obstructed,” the observer said. “It makes you doubt, and none of us wants to doubt whether our votes are being counted.”