The Racine County Sheriff's Department has launched an investigation into voter irregularities in the June 5 recall election after the county Republican Party filed four affidavits Wednesday detailing possible problems at the polls.
Lou D'Abbraccio, a board member of Racine County GOP, coordinated the poll observers on Election Day. He collected and turned in the affidavits from several poll observers to the Sheriff’s Department.
And more are coming this week, he said.
“We’re just trying to bring an awareness of some of these issues,” D’Abbraccio said. “We think there were significant irregularities in the election that were process related, things that had to do with a lack of training on part of poll workers, and some that were willfully done on the part of the poll worker.”
Sheriff's Lt. Steven Sikora told Patch that the department has received the affidavits and has assigned an investigator to the case.
“There are a number of things being decided,” he said Wednesday. “We need to decide whether these are going to be treated as one case or several. We’re also getting more information in every day. And it’s my understanding that there is more coming.
“But I can say that this is going to have a lot of follow-up.”
D’Abbraccio said the affidavits were filed because the party believes there is a “breakdown in the integrity of the election.”
“We are going to insist that the laws be upheld and the standards in the law with registration of voters be upheld,” D’Abbraccio said. “It’s my belief that when the process starts to erode it is exploited systematically and opportunistically… I have no proof of fraud, but what we have is anecdotal evidence and we want to ensure that those opportunities don’t exist.”
Poll workers' actions questioned
The affidavits filed with the department allege:
- A polling inspector refused to uphold the challenge of a poll watcher, who saw that a voter had showed improper documentation to a poll worker at Bryant Park in Racine. The voter had submitted a handwritten rental receipt as proof of residency.
- A poll worker at the Jefferson Lighthouse was seen canvassing while she was supposed to be working. The woman claimed she was asked to let voters know that they shouldn't park near the student play area, but poll watchers followed the woman outside and noticed she was going door to door.
- A poll worker provided assistance to voters and did not document it.
- In at least one polling site, poll workers were supposed to have a witness oversee the transfer of copy of absentee ballots onto real ballots that could go through the machine, but they only had one person doing the work Caesar Chavez Center in Racine.
When the absentee ballots were being processed, some of the ballots were on regular paper copies the clerk had made. However, those paper ballots had to be transferred onto the heavier card stock paper that the electronic voting machines could read. The procedure requires that one person to transfer the votes while another poll worker acted as a witness, D'Abbraccio said.
Bill Folk, chairman for the Racine County Republican Party, said these problems are nothing new.
"In the past elections, however, poll workers have been very accommodating of poll watchers," Folk said. "This year we noticed a marked difference in their attitudes. I don’t know why."
Democratic leader is skeptical of complaints
Jane Witt, chairman for the Democratic Party of Racine, said the allegations are not valid and they are just rumors.
“These (complaints) were not verified with the city, village or county clerks’ offices because there was nothing to verify,” Witt said.
Also, when people were told that they couldn’t use certain documents as proof of residency, Witt said the voters could have used provisional ballots.
A provisional ballot is issued to a voter who is unable to provide the poll workers with documentation as required by law. If that voter can provide correct documentation by the Friday after the election, the vote is then counted.
“If there were challenges, then a provisional ballot can be cast. But I don’t think the poll workers were telling voters that they could use them,” Witt said. “We’ve always had provisional ballots. If you can’t provide proof of residency at that poll, then you can use it.”
Wendy Christiansen, Racine County Clerk, said that only seven provisional ballots were filed in the county.
“No one filed any complaints with my office on Election Day,” she said.