The Wisconsin Election Commission blatantly and openly violated state law and committed felony crimes throughout the state of Wisconsin by ordering that special voting deputies should not go into nursing homes during the 2020 presidential election, as required by statutes, the Racine County Sheriff said in a bombshell news conference on October 28, 2021, calling on Attorney General Josh Kaul to immediately launch a statewide criminal investigation.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling and his investigator Sgt. Mike Luell, who is a former prosecutor, repeatedly said in the Racine County Sheriff press conference that they believe the Commission members – who included two major Joe Biden donors, Mark Thomsen and Ann Jacobs, acting as chair and vice-chair – committed the crime of election fraud.
Schmaling and Luell said that elderly nursing home residents at Ridgewood Health Care center in Mount Pleasant were victimized by the lawbreaking because staff members helped residents cast ballots even though they couldn’t recognize family members, did not know who the president was, and, in one case, had been declared incompetent. One cognitively impaired woman’s ballot was counted even after she died, sheriff’s officials said. Staff members were told to handle ballots for residents. The sheriff’s officials went so far as to say vulnerable elderly residents were preyed upon; they said they don’t know who those residents voted for.
Schmaling called on Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to immediately launch a statewide investigation, saying he was sure that other violations occurred throughout the state’s 72 counties. He said that he had a conference call with Kaul and offered the Democratic AG all of his investigative reports, but Kaul was not interested. Schmaling said the Sheriff’s Department is also planning on referring potential charges against WEC members to the Ozaukee County District Attorney.
We reached out to Kaul for comment. We will update the story if he responds.
“The crime is the WEC telling other officials to not follow the law,” Luell said. “That’s the crime. The crime is completed throughout the state. They (the WEC) have committed crime after crime after crime in all 72 counties.”
“This is not a Racine County issue. This is an entire state of Wisconsin issue,” said Schmaling. “There are clear violations of the law, and it’s a statewide problem.”
The sheriff added: “The election statute was not just broken but shattered by members of the Wisconsin Election Commission. The WEC is made up of six commissioners…the commissioners are appointed by the legislative leaders or the governor… they are an agency under the governor.”
Schmaling said that AG Josh Kaul “declined” his offer to send the Attorney General his investigative reports and/or Luell to assist in an AG investigation. “They decided they didn’t want our investigative reports. That there was nothing to see here,” said Schmaling of Kaul. “The law is being snubbed, disregarded. I hope today that this has grabbed the attention of the attorney general. The law was in fact violated. There’s no doubt in my mind that this occurred. It is called election fraud, that is the name of the statute. The attorney general should jump on board, ask for our investigative reports and ask for an immediate investigation throughout the state.”
He added that there are 10 other nursing homes in Racine County and hundreds throughout the state. “It is foolish to think this violation…occurred at one care facility,” he said.
“This needs the attorney general’s attention; he should launch an immediate investigation into the WEC and the harm they have done to all of these individuals and restore some level of integrity and trust back into our election. When people break the law, we all want them held accountable.”
The Sheriff’s officials played video clips and quoted from Wisconsin Election Commissioners who admitted in public meetings that they were telling people to violate the law when they suspended the law requiring special voting deputies from each party to supervise votes in the state’s nursing homes. The governor’s office and a legislative agency both said the WEC did not have the authority to do so, which Schamling and Luell stressed they also believe.
Schmaling and Luell said they believed staff members at Ridgewood were just following the directives issued by WEC.
A separate non-partisan audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau recently found that the WEC repeatedly violated state law, including on the special voting deputy issue.
In addition, a former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is investigating election irregularities. Those investigations are separate from the one in Racine, which Schmaling said started a year ago when a woman began investigating why her cognitively impaired mother at Ridgewood had her vote count even after her death.
The sheriff’s officials said these were “people who can’t recognize their own sons and daughters, who can’t remember what they ate.”
Authorities ultimately reached eight of the 48 families of elderly people at Ridgewood who voted. Every family did not return their calls. In only one case, a court had deemed the elderly voter legally incompetent to act on their own, but in the other cases, loved ones, some of whom were at the press conference, believed that “their elderly loved one was taken advantage of,” Luell said.
Schmaling said he had not spoken with President Trump or Assembly leader Robin Vos, stressing that “this came to us. As the sheriff it is my job to investigate crimes in the county. As a citizen of this country, I want to see our election process fixed. I want to make sure your vote and my vote counts. I am not looking to overturn an election or a single vote. I want to draw attention to a clear violation of state law. I want to see that people are held accountable.”
He said the DA could work with the AG’s office “to launch an investigation with the state. We need to start at the top, where this occurred.”
Luell said that extensive conversations were held with the DA. There are “crimes occurring in all 72 counties,” he said. “The law was broken with the advice of the WEC not to follow the law.” This was proven “through their own (the WEC’s) letters and own words.”
It would be up to the DA or the AG to decide whether to file charges.
“We’re asking people who are next in line to do their job. The sheriff has called for a statewide investigation… offered my documents and reports to the attorney general’s office,” said Luell. “They chose not to accept those reports. We are extending our offer again.”
The full names of the elderly voters were not released to protect their privacy.
Schmaling stressed that it was not his “intention at all to change the outcome of the election.” He said that he wanted to shed light to “bring about change, to mandate that WEC follow state statutes.”
The sheriff said, “The election law was broken.”
The initial complainant was a woman identified only as Judy whose “mom was a victim of election integrity at Ridgewood Health Care,” Schmaling said. He read a statement from Judy, who said, “My mom was a fighter and would be happy and pleased to know that people are fighting for her rights.” Her mom is deceased.
The sheriff said that the media “have called this some type of political event. That is not true. The purpose of this event today is not political.”
Sgt. Luell told the story of Judy, saying, “This case starts with a very brave woman named Judy. She had a mother who was a resident at Ridgewood.” Her mother died on October 9, 2020, before the presidential election, but Judy checked online and discovered that her mother, Shirley’s “vote actually counted in that election after her mother passed away.”
Her mother was “experiencing severe cognitive decline, severe physical decline. She didn’t want to keep up on current events, didn’t watch TV or read. Judy was concerned and reached out to the Ridgewood care facility and said how could my mother possibly have voted,” Luell said, adding that the center’s executive director told Judy that the WEC had authorized employees of such nursing homes to “execute the vote, which is a direct violation of the law.”
Judy was told that staff members would “inquire as to how the resident had voted in the past and they would follow those guidelines and voted accordingly.” Judy asked if her mother could only remember JFK if the staff would vote Democratic for her and was told yes. Shirley also had vision problems and could barely see. How was it determined her vote was made accurately, Judy wanted to know? She was told the staff “hoped that other employees would be honest,” said Luell.
Judy filed a complaint with WEC, which funneled it to the DA, who sent it to the Sheriff’s Department, and the investigation was launched.
She voiced concern that the facility “took advantage of her mother due to her mother’s diminished mental capacity and filled out ballots in her name. It was documented that her own mother couldn’t recognize her own daughter, couldn’t remember what she had eaten that day or even what day it was at all. She was also experiencing hallucinations,” said Luell.
Luell went to the Mount Pleasant Village Hall. The clerks gave him letters from the WEC, “which ordered them not to send special voting deputies into retirement facilities.” Special deputies, one Democratic and one Republican, are supposed to be appointed, take an oath, are trained, and then go into nursing homes to execute the vote. That’s state law.
Luell said that there was a surge of voting at Ridgewood. Forty-eight people voted in the presidential election, when normally only 10 people vote. And 38 people requested absentee ballots, when normally it’s 0-3.
Luell stressed that “voting is good. There is nothing wrong with more voting,” but he said “manipulating, taking advantage of, preying on people in cognitive decline” raises concerns.
He said authorities don’t know who the people voted for.
“We are not changing one vote or election, we are trying to hold our government accountable and force them to follow the laws that they passed,” said Luell.
He then went through the history of the WEC’s actions.
On March 12, 2020, WEC sent out a letter telling municipalities that they “shall not use the special voting deputy process…What they are saying there is they are telling municipalities to not follow the law,” Luell said, adding that WEC used a pandemic-related argument, saying the employees were “non-essential.”
He tried to figure out their rationale through open records requests and deemed that they “just decided, so, is the best I can understand.” Luell said there are criminal penalties when people falsely certify that a voter is indefinitely confined on an application for absentee ballots.
“These applications were prefilled out for the residents and the certification was either checked before and sometimes after the resident put their signature on this document. They do not believe their loved ones had the cognitive ability to understand that document,” Luell said of the families.
He said the ballots were “executed by the staff of the facilities, which is explicitly prohibited by the statute.”
Luell then watched recordings of meetings of the WEC.
He said the governor’s office “told them they can’t do this, the legislative council told them what you’re doing is not appropriate.”
He said WEC tried to argue it found a loophole in statutes that say a ballot can be mailed to a voter if the special voting deputy makes two attempts to get the elector to vote and is unsuccessful, but he noted, “They decided to never even bother to try to send the SVDs.”
Luell noted that the U.S. Constitution clearly states that only Legislatures of states can create laws, not an election commission. Even the governor’s office said “I can’t change the law,” but an agency of the executive branch, the WEC “said we will do it on our own against the law.”
He went to Ridgewood to speak with staff. One employee said they would mark the ballot wherever the elderly resident pointed. Some people didn’t want to vote or didn’t have mental clarity, so they were pointed at the TV to watch the news for a day or two and then go back and “see if they are lucid enough to vote.”
Luell said ballots “were floating around the facility unsealed in the ballot envelope just floating around the facility.”
He said he didn’t blame the employees because they weren’t trained and were asked to do tasks they shouldn’t have to do.
He added, “Seven families informed me their loved one in their opinion did not have the cognitive ability to request a ballot and exercise their right to vote.”
He checked their voting history and found that many had not voted since 2012 until last November. One elderly man was only interested in Doritos and Snickers.
One elderly resident who voted would ask her own son, ‘Who are you?” and couldn’t even recognize her own son. She had not voted in other elections.
“DF was adamant that her mother OF would not have requested an absentee ballot. She was unable to remember what she ate for breakfast that day,” Luell said.
RP said her father “had difficulty recognizing his own grandchildren. He would not know that Trump was the president nor who was elected the new president, and he would not know what the candidates stood for on the issues,” said a PowerPoint Luell played. That’s the man who only asked about Doritos or Snickers. “No, I’m sorry no,” this family member said when asked if the elderly man would have the mental ability to express his desire for an absentee ballot and exercise his right to vote.
One of the elderly residents was determined incompetent, unable to make decisions for himself because he had no ability to know what going on.
The WEC consists of six members, three appointed by Democrats and three By Republicans. Two are attorneys (Jacobs and Thomsen, the Biden donors.) “They had very strange and suspect legal opinions in this matter,” said Luell.
On March 10, 2020, with Covid as a grave concern, the WEC wrote a letter saying they needed to suspend the special voting deputy law. That’s when the governor’s office told them the governor “does not have the power to suspend parts of Wisconsin’s voting law even during an emergency.”
On March 12, 2020, the governor shut down the state with an executive order. The WEC decided to “issue that directive which tells each municipality not to follow the law,” said Luell.
He quoted Commissioner Dean Knudsen, who said, “what we are really saying here is once again, we are saying that despite what the law says, the election commission is saying in this instance we need to have some flexibility to not follow the law.” He was talking about polling places in that instance.
Luell acknowledged “COVID is serious, it’s scary, we get it. It was a hair-on-fire moment. Everyone was scared. We understand drastic decisions were made.” But the governor’s Safer at Home order expired on May 26, 2020.
“Not only did the WEC not have the power to do what they did in an emergency, they certainly didn’t have power to do what they did when emergency order expired,” said Luell.
On June 24, 2020, again “citing no legal authority,” they extended the suspension of the special voting deputy program.
Commissioner Bob Spindell said he was concerned with fraud in nursing homes and that in Milwaukee there were “literally hundreds of ballots floating around residential care facilities, unsecure,” said Luell.
He said the election commission vote to suspend the program was 5-1, with only Spindell voting against it.
In September 2020, Spindell asked in a meeting, “the law states we’re supposed to do something, we’re not doing it; where does that power come from?” But no one answered the question. He suggested using technology to facilitate the vote.
Knudson said, according to Luell, “We should not follow this law during the pandemic.”
Ann Jacobs, the chair, claimed that guidance from the health department on visitors to nursing homes was a law that had to exist in harmony with the SVD law, but Luell said that was guidance but not the law. Only the SVD law was the law.
A letter was sent by WEC to all care facilities in the state on “how to assist the voter in filling out their absentee ballots…Instructing the employees of the nursing homes, if a voter requests assistance, you may read the ballot to the voter or mark the ballot as directed by the voter. That is the completion of the crime right there, crimes throughout the state, all 72 counties, every nursing home, residential care facility, right there. That… is a violation of state law.”
On January 15, 2021, they voted again to suspend following the law. Knudson literally states, according to a video Luell played, “we’re telling the clerks to break the law. We’re the ones directing them to break the law.” He says maybe they should use technology.
He states “the svd law is a law. Prohibitions on visitors at nursing homes was a guidance, a directive.” There is no other law.
In February 2021, the legislative council provided an opinion to the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules that state law does not empower the WEC to waive the special voting deputies, nor does the law contain an exemption for a pandemic. They tell the WEC to go through the formal process of promulgating an emergency rule but they do not do so.
On March 2, 2021, WEC said they weren’t going to go ahead with that and tried to claim they did nothing wrong. “That’s where we don’t really agree,” said Luell.
He said one of the WEC’s arguments is that people couldn’t get into nursing homes during the pandemic so the SVDs shouldn’t go in either.
But he found that, from March 13, 2020, through the end of November 2020, 899 civilian visitors and 335 employees entered Ridgewood. They included the Orkin man, a laundry repair person, a person who cleaned a fish tank, a vendor who dealt with vending machines, the person who cleaned the birdcage, and DoorDash. Judy was allowed to visit her mother through plexiglass.
He said that Wisconsin statutes list election fraud as a crime. That includes if a person in an official position intentionally violates or causes another person to violate provisions of state election law; it can be a felony.
“The government doesn’t have to prove the loved ones were taken advantage of. It was violated when the proper procedures were not filed,” said Luell.
He said the commissioners’ statements “blew my mind where they basically admitted violating the law.”
Knudson said, according to Luell, “I have had discomfort and I expressed it publicly that we will be essentially telling the clerks to break the law.”
“You know earlier it was said we are trying to reconcile two conflicting laws. The SVD law is a law,” he said at another point.
Schmaling said no one has been arrested.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin released the following statement from Chairman Paul Farrow:
“Anyone who cares at all about election integrity owes the Racine County Sheriff’s Department a debt of gratitude for their work today. It is horrific that WEC’s choice to violate state laws may have led to bad actors taking advantage of vulnerable citizens in nursing homes. It’s time for Democrats, the Department of Justice, and the mainstream media to take election integrity concerns seriously.”
Racine County Sheriff Press Conference
We emailed Jacobs and Thomsen seeking comment as well as the WEC. The WEC responded,
“The discussion about Special Voting Deputy access during the COVID-19 pandemic is over 18 months old and occurred entirely in public meetings,” said WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe. “Information about the topic is available on the WEC website here: https://elections.wi.gov/node/
Thomsen and Jacobs later gave statements in response to Schmaling’s claims. Jacobs denied that the commission broke state law. Read more here.
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