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What are Milwaukee County elections officials hiding?

Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 21, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

Milwaukee County elections officials are doing everything in their power to obstruct Trump campaign representatives from observing the recount, multiple sources at the scene tell Empower Wisconsin. 

“Election lawyers for President Trump say they’ve never seen anything like it,” state Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) said Saturday afternoon following three hours at a Milwaukee central recall site.  

Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell says he tried to tell the Democrat-led canvassing board that they were not following recently approved commission guidance on the recount. The board rejected his request to testify, saying vote counters didn’t need to follow the state election regulator’s guidance. 

Instead, sources say Milwaukee County elections officials are making it extremely difficult for observers to do their job, demanding the full application of COVID-19 social distancing orders that keep observers too far away to clearly see ballots in question. 

“They’re using COVID just like they did in the November election, as a cover for the lack of transparency,” a volunteer observer who has served as a witness since the recount started on Friday told Empower Wisconsin.  

Trump’s campaign has sought a partial recount of Wisconsin’s closely contested presidential election, which saw Democrat Joe Biden unofficially win by north of 20,000 votes, or less than 1 percent. 

The campaign paid $3 million for a recount of Dane and Milwaukee counties. Its petition cited “illegally altered absentee ballots, illegally issued absentee ballots, and illegal advice given by government officials allowing Wisconsin’s Voter ID laws to be circumvented.” 

“These two counties were selected because they are the locations of the worst irregularities,” according to a campaign statement.  

Observers say Milwaukee County elections officials are not allowing them to clearly see absentee ballot envelopes. The Trump campaign has challenged the validity of envelopes in which omitted witness addresses were filled in by poll workers — a violation of state statute. 

The observer who spoke to Empower Wisconsin said the volunteers who are assisting with the recount, for the most part, haven’t been obstructionists. It’s the county elections officials, the supervisors, “that are being ridiculous.” 

“If we ask the volunteers about a vote, the elections officials will say to them, ‘You don’t have to talk to them,’” the observer reported. “They are creating the hostile environment, not the average volunteer.” 

Spindell said Madison elections officials have found a way to meet safety and fair elections obligations, as have officials in the city of Milwaukee. Vote counters have placed ballots in question up to plexiglass for observers to see. Observers say that has been a rarity in Milwaukee County so far. 

State Rep. Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger) was at the Milwaukee County recount site for several hours Saturday. He said it was an “eye-opening experience.”

“I was getting some calls from constituents working down there who were saying, ‘It’s a mess, no one know’s what’s going on.’ Now I know what they were referring to,” the lawmaker said. 

Sources at the scene say the elections officials’ conduct begs the question: What are Milwaukee County elections officials hiding? 

“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.”

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