Almost three weeks ago, I asked for a recount in my senate election under the philosophy of “trust but verify.” I stated then that I hoped that a trusted and verified result would allow us to finally move forward as a state. Unfortunately, following the recount, we only have a verified vote tally.
Election laws are in place to provide confidence in election results. The Democrats said the recall election was a “trial run” of their ground game for November. Yet, Wisconsin’s long-standing laws prohibiting electioneering, same-day registration requirements, and how to receive and count ballots were widely ignored in this trial run. Election laws are in place to ensure the integrity of the vote. When they are not followed, the results are less trustworthy.
On election day, my campaign received reports of suspect activities at polling places. Electioneering and valid legal challenges to voters were ignored by election officials, many of whom signed recall petitions. There was a suspiciously high number of same-day registrations and numerous reports of same day voter registration requirements being disregarded. Election observers witnessed polling places being open after the polls closed and we all remember that the rest of the state was able to count their votes a full 3 hours before the city of Racine could.
Even before I asked for a recount, it was reported that the Racine County Sheriff had already launched two investigations into suspicious election activities.
Rather than answer these questions, the recount only raised more. While people across the state were required to sign the poll list before receiving a ballot to prevent fraud, hundreds of voters in Racine did not. In Racine, poll books were missing dozens of pages, missing names or addresses, and contained wrong information. For hundreds of clerks across Wisconsin, including every other community in Racine County, the poll books were in perfect order. In every other municipality, ballot bags were sealed properly on election night. But in the city of Racine, 20% of the wards had ballot bags that were sealed and reopened, or never sealed at all. All of these discoveries raise serious, and troubling questions.
As I mentioned before, there were a large number of same-day registrations in my election. In fact – more than 5% of entire population of Racine registered to vote on election day. The requirements for same day registrations are clear. A voter must prove his or her identity and residence in specific methods laid out in statutes. Unfortunately, Racine was accepting hand-written receipts, advertisements, and mail addressed to “resident” or “occupant” as residence proof in violation of law.
To further protect our election integrity, a municipality must send out address verification postcards to new registrants within 10 days of the election. If those postcards are returned, the voter is struck from the polls. Over a month after the election, and more than 20 days after it is required, Racine’s city clerk has yet to comply with the law.
Wisconsin’s election day laws are designed to protect the reliability of our electoral process and to prevent and deter fraud. They are simple and easy to read. Yet in the city of Racine, many were disregarded. Whether this was because of ignorance, negligence or misconduct we may never know. Regardless the reason, every citizen should be concerned when election laws are violated. When they are not followed, it raises questions about the validity of an election – especially close ones.
There is more at stake here than one of thirty-three senate seats. It’s more important than temporary control of the Wisconsin state senate - although both are important. What happened in the city of Racine on election day could happen anywhere in Wisconsin if voters are not vigilant. Imagine the uproar if these mistakes were found in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Madison, LaCrosse, or Appleton in November. It could swing the presidential race for the entire country. In 2000, Florida’s electoral process became a joke for the entire country. We don’t want Wisconsin to become the punch line of 2012.