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FACT CHECK: Racine's mobile voting truck is legal, and is ADA compliant

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Election 2022-Wisconsin-Mobile Voting-Fact Focus

The City of Racine Clerk’s Office mobile voting van is pictured July 26 outside the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center in Racine.

RACINE — Two years ago, the City of Racine became the first and only municipality in Wisconsin to purchase a mobile voting truck.

City Clerk Tara McMenamin


City Clerk Tara McMenamin said she pushed for the truck because it was challenging to set up equipment at remote sites for early in-person voting. The city used the truck for the first time for municipal elections this past spring, although it was first deployed as a voter registration booth last year.

But with a slate of hot races on the battleground state’s Aug. 9 fall primary ballot, including GOP primaries for governor, attorney general and secretary of state, conservatives online have in recent days raised questions about the truck, asking how such an operation can be legal and accusing Democrats of using the truck to cheat. A number of videos have been posted and shared online in groups that doubt the validity of Wisconsin’s elections, decrying the mobile voting unit as “sketchy” and “illegal” even though it is in compliance with state law.

Here’s a closer look at some of their claims:

CLAIM: Racine has been using multiple mobile voting vans since June 2021.

THE FACTS: There’s only one truck, and it wasn’t used until this year. The Common Council approved funding for one truck to serve as a movable early voting site in June 2020. The city used it for the first time in the state’s spring primary this past February, McMenamin said.

CLAIM: The city bought the truck using “Zuckerbucks” from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life.

THE FACTS: It’s correct that the truck was purchased using money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. The nonprofit seeks to help election officials update technology and to increase civic participation and got a $350 million donation in 2020 from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife.

Wisconsin’s five largest cities all received the state’s largest CTCL grants in 2020, although more than 200 communities in total received money from the nonprofit. Racine accepted around $950,000.

Some conservatives have derided the CTCL grants as “Zuckerbucks” and called them election bribery, saying they tilted the 2020 presidential election toward Democrat Joe Biden. But judges have repeatedly rejected legal challenges to the grants.

CLAIM: The truck has been functioning as an absentee ballot drop box in defiance of a state Supreme Court ruling in July outlawing them.

THE FACTS: No, it hasn’t.

The truck is used only to facilitate early in-person voting during the two weeks prior to an election as per state law, McMenamin said. She wanted the truck because it was becoming too cumbersome for her staff to set up their equipment in remote polling sites.

The city posts notices at City Hall, online and in The Journal Times of the truck’s planned stops, meeting a requirement in state law that municipalities give public notice of the times and locations of early in-person voting sites, McMenamin said. Often the truck parks outside of buildings that have traditionally been used as early voting sites such as community centers, she said. Using the truck allows voting at the site without interrupting functions within the building, she said.

People can walk up to the truck, register to vote if they haven’t done so, vote in one of the truck’s five built-in booths and hand their ballot to a city staff member manning the vehicle, she said. The ballots are then secured in a locked container. People can turn in absentee ballots at the truck, just as they’re allowed to do at brick-and-mortar early voting sites, but the truck doesn’t have a slit for a drop box, isn’t available 24 hours a day like a drop box, and isn’t unmanned like a drop box McMenamin said.

CLAIM: The truck is not ADA complaint.

Ring bell for voting assistance

A sign with a "doorbell" allows those who may need assistance with voting, as required to be provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act, to get help from those staffing the city's Mobile Elections Unit.

FACTS: It appears to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Shannon Powell, City of Racine Communications Director


Shannon Powell, communications director for the city, said in an email: “When you pull up to the Mobile Elections Unit, outside the unit on a stand you will find essentially a doorbell that says for curbside voting that indicates it is for people who have disabilities or want to vote curbside. That doorbell rings inside the MEU. Clerk staff then come and can assist just like they would do for any other curbside voter.”

CLAIM: The city doesn’t allow Republican observers in the truck, enabling Democrats to cheat.


McMenamin said state law allows observers to watch in-person early voting, so observers are allowed in the truck. She said GOP observers have been in the truck since the fall primary early in-person voting window opened July 26th.

“It would be exactly the same as if it was in the brick and mortar (early voting site),” she said. “(I would tell) people who are more skeptical of the process, this follows state law.”

If election observers feel they’ve been unjustly barred or thrown out of an early voting site, they can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Some online blogs claimed Democrats were staffing the truck and would cast “phony ballots” from it. But the truck is staffed by city election officials and has the same rules as any other early voting site.

Adam Rogan of The Journal Times contributed to this report.


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