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Wisconsin Gov. Evers Chides Speaker for Response to Absentee Ballot Investigation

October 29, 2021 by Reece Nations
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington. (Photo by Dan McCue)

RACINE, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers offered a rebuke of state House Speaker Robin Vos’ comments in response to a Racine County Sheriff’s Office investigation into election law violations at a long-term care facility for elderly residents.

Vos issued a written statement in response to a press conference on Thursday in which Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling presented evidence of alleged absentee ballot violations at the Ridgewood Care Facility in Mount Pleasant. In his statement, Vos accused the Wisconsin Elections Commission of breaking the law and called for the resignation of Wisconsin’s chief election official.

“People’s trust in Wisconsin’s elections has been tested,” Vos said. “Many Wisconsinites feel elections are not safe and secure, and now the Racine County Sheriff’s investigation found clear violations and law-breaking within the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Clearly there is a severe mismanagement of WEC, and a new administrator is needed. I am calling for the resignation of Meagan Wolfe as Elections Commission Administrator. Cover-ups and complacency with law-breaking are red flags Wisconsinites cannot ignore.”

The revelations came to light after complaints filed by family members of the facility’s residents alleged the elderly citizens were being taken advantage of for political purposes. Schmaling asserted during the press conference that members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission “shattered” election statutes by filling out absentee ballots for residents with “diminished mental [capacities]” and marking them off by inquiring about the resident’s prior voting history.

Schmaling has not yet recommended charges in the investigation, but Vos has indicated publicly that additional subpoenas will be sought by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman who headed the investigation prior to Racine County Sgt. Michael Luell stepping in to investigate the claims.  

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said during a news conference that Republican lawmakers’ subpoenas for election materials were against the law and called for the “fake investigation” to be shut down, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Luell revealed during the press conference on Thursday the Racine County Sheriff’s Office had obtained testimony from family members of Ridgewood Care Facility’s residents backing up the claims of election law violations.

“Elected officials can — and often do — disagree on plenty,” Evers said in a written statement. “But what is beneath the offices we hold and the responsibility entrusted to us is using our platforms to publicly and baselessly disparage and singularly belittle public servants. From our clerks and election administrators to members of the Wisconsin National Guard to Wisconsin Elections Commission staff, hundreds rolled up their sleeves last year, and it is because of them Wisconsin held a free, safe, and fair election last November.”

Evers continued, “Speaker Vos’ comments are unbecoming of his office and the people we serve. It’s my expectation — and one Wisconsinites share — that elected officials in this state treat others with civility and respect. The speaker’s behavior today fell woefully short of those expectations.”

Reece can be reached at [email protected]

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