RACINE — The Racine County sheriff claims an investigation into alleged election fraud at a Racine nursing home shows the Wisconsin Elections Commission violated state law by not allowing special voting deputies inside senior and assisted living centers during the 2020 Presidential Election.
Sheriff Christopher Schmaling says employees at Ridgewood Care Center admitted to helping residents fill out their ballots, which is illegal in Wisconsin. The sheriff says a decision by the state’s elections commission is to blame.
The Racine County Sheriff’s Office says their investigation started nearly a year ago when a woman named Judy found that her deceased mother’s vote counted in the election. Sergeant Michael Luell says Judy told him that her mother lived in Ridgewood Care Center and she didn’t have the mental capacity to vote absentee in the months leading up to her death last October.
"Judy was concerned and reached out to the Ridgewood Care facility to ask ‘how could my mother have voted,' and she was informed by the executive director that the Wisconsin Elections Commission authorized the employees of these facilities to execute the vote, which, by the way, is a direct violation of law,” Sgt. Luell said.
Under Wisconsin election law, special voting deputies are trained to go into nursing homes and assisted living centers to assist residents and collect their absentee ballots.
But due to the pandemic, the Wisconsin Elections Commission voted last year to halt the special voting deputies program. The commission is made up of six members, three lean liberal and three lean conservative. Bob Spindell, a conservative, was the only commissioner who voted to keep special voting deputies in place for elections last year.
"I was always against the policy that the election commission came up with of not allowing special voting deputies,” he said. “There's a good reason why special voting deputies should be used for nursing homes, assisted living and so forth, so no fraud can take place."
In a statement, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said, "The discussion about Special Voting Deputy access during the COVID-19 pandemic is over 18 months old and occurred entirely in public meetings.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice sent the following statement in regard to the voter fraud allegations.
“We’re confident that local law enforcement and District Attorneys in Wisconsin take voter fraud seriously and that, if there are credible allegations of fraud, they will be thoroughly investigated by local law enforcement,” a DOJ spokesperson said. “In the event that local law enforcement or District Attorneys need assistance in any case involving credible evidence of fraud, the Wisconsin Department of Justice is available to assist. Here, DOJ was previously in contact with Sheriff Schmaling and DOJ advised that certain interviews be conducted that had not been at that time. Significantly, no charges have been filed in this case by the Racine County DA’s office. DOJ is also currently not aware of similar allegations anywhere else in Wisconsin.”
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin says Sheriff Schmaling’s news conference was nothing more than a political stunt.
"The Racine County Sheriff's Department has been wasting taxpayer money in an attempt to rehash discredited claims about the 2020 election results,” the Democratic Party of Wisconsin said. “There weren't any charges filed or even any suggested."
Although the woman who filed the original claim of voter fraud was at Thursday’s news conference, the sheriff would not allow reporters to ask her questions. TMJ4 News reached out to the Racine County District Attorney on whether charges would be filed, but we have yet to hear back.
We also reached out to Ridgewood Care Center for a comment on the sheriff’s investigation, but we have yet to hear back from them either.