RACINE — The various claims of recall election fraud were found to be baseless, according to sheriff’s investigators’ reports, which revealed no criminal conduct but rather complainants’ own violations.
Following the June 5 recalls in which state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, unseated Republican incumbent Van Wanggaard in the 21st Senate District race, multiple allegations of irregularities at area polls had surfaced, followed by prominent state Republicans calling the local efforts “an utter mockery.”
The Government Accountability Board promptly blasted the unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud for undermining voter confidence.
And, subsequently, the Racine County District Attorney’s Office, upon reviewing the sheriff’s investigation results, announced: “Based on the information that was received, it was determined that said information did not rise to the level required for a criminal prosecution.”
Following is a detailed account of the allegations and the corresponding results of the sheriff’s investigation, according to released reports:
Lou D’Abbraccio, head of the Racine GOP Election Observer program, told investigators that as a poll watcher on June 5 at the Dr. John Bryant Center, 601 21st St., his biggest concerns were “poll worker issues,” such as them accepting hospital bills or a handwritten rent receipt as proof of residence, according to reports.
Reports said D’Abbraccio, in his June 14 four-page election summary, made claims including: electioneering at polling places, people in “blue fist” (the logo worn by groups protesting the collective bargaining law changes) attire distributing food and drinks to voters, not enough staff at polls and insufficiently trained poll workers who lacked supervision.
Investigators spoke with Racine City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin, who said the GAB allowed using hospital or medical documents for proof, and the list of acceptable documents is “very broad.” She also noted that D’Abbraccio, as a trained observer, should have written down his objection and forwarded that to the GAB.
According to GAB rules, observers are at polling places to “monitor,” but not interfere with proceedings.
Apparently D’Abbraccio also called Assistant City Clerk Donna Deuster to the Bryant Center on June 5 regarding his complaint. Deuster later gave a statement to investigators: “Without solicitation I was pulled aside by other observers who felt Mr. D’Abbrac-cio caused an unnecessary disruption to the voting site.”
Reports go on to note that D’Abbraccio himself violated GAB rules, which warns against observers engaging in “any loud, boisterous or otherwise disruptive behavior,” when he admitted yelling at a poll worker.
On June 11, Michael Ottelien of Racine told investigators that on June 9 he found pre-signed and ripped-up voter registration forms in a trash bin at the Cesar Chavez Community Center, 2221 Douglas Ave.
Ottelien had a picture of himself in the bin with the forms and documents to show “that is in fact where he located the items,” according to reports. He believed it “may be part of some voter fraud occurring at the center,” reports said.
Investigators found that some of the names, addresses and corresponding documents from the bin listed people whose polling places were not at Chavez.
Some of them were apparently training documents for poll workers and possibly brought to the polls for reference then later discarded, according to Johnson-Martin in the reports.
The investigator showed her other located documents, including a registration application apparently completed and signed by a convicted felon.
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Johnson-Martin noted the application was not signed by an official and was rejected because the felon was found ineligible to vote, according to reports. Only applications signed by an official are accepted.
Reports conclude: “In summary, none of the items brought to the Sheriff’s Office removed from the Dumpster by Ottelien prove or even suggest voter fraud had occurred at the Cesar Chavez Center. The items discarded in the trash are just that, trash.”
On June 19, Ardis Cerny of Pewaukee reported seeing vans painted “Vote Barrett Vote Mitchell YMCM” at Chavez and later found out YMCM is the name of a rapper, Young Money Cash Money, according to reports. She questioned: “Was this code for ‘We will pay you for your vote?’”
Cerny is the co-chair of We’re Watching Wisconsin Elections, which she described as a nonpartisan group supporting fair and honest elections, following state statutes, and voter ID requirements.
Shuttle vans are allowed to drop off voters at polls but must abide the 100-foot rule for parking, reports said, adding: “Cerny’s interpretation of what YMCM is just that, her interpretation.”
D’Abbraccio submitted “signed affidavits” from two poll observers including Barbara Simpson, which had pictures of a Jefferson Lighthouse School poll inspector. Simpson apparently observed her offer some chicken to a voter who was turned away because she didn’t have proper ID.
Investigators concluded: “Some of (Simpson’s) observations are complaints about how the poll workers did their jobs. But, some of them are examples of the poll workers doing their jobs correctly.”
Reports continue: “(In) many of the complaints received, the observer had made assumptions of fraud ... with no proof that had occurred.”
“Most of the observers themselves have written in their observations that they violated those rules they stated they would abide by,” reports noted, for example speaking to poll workers directly and causing disruption at polling places.
In addition to the above, the Sheriff’s Office also received two email complaints, which contained a video and an audio recording on June 29.
The 44-second video “Ballot chaos at WI polling place,” posted on www.breitbart.com, shows a woman on a couch stacking ballots and another woman standing behind her also organizing ballots. A ballot falls from the standing woman’s hands, which the woman on the couch picks up and places into her stack, according to the posted video.
“It should be noted that it is illegal to take video recordings or photographs at polling places,” reports said. It was apparently taken on June 5 at the Racine Transit Center, 1409 State St., by an unknown person.
The approximately 9-minute audio is of a conversation apparently between a Michigan resident and a Washington, D.C.-area radio talk show host. The resident, “Mike,” claimed he was on a bus sponsored by a Democratic union traveling to Wisconsin to vote illegally for Tom Barrett, according to reports.
Investigators concluded there was no evidence the buses ever existed or even arrived in Racine County.
Concerns of poll workers’ performances are not a criminal matter, reports conclude, and should be referred to either the GAB or the City Clerk.
The “normal routing of election complaints” would have been for the GAB to refer complaints of merit to the city clerk, who would then forward them to law enforcement.