RACINE, Wis. - Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling unveiled on Thursday, Oct. 28 the results of an investigation into possible election law violations throughout Racine County and Wisconsin. While the sheriff alleges the law has been broken, he is not yet recommending charges.
"Election statute was in fact not just broken, but shattered by members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission," Schmaling said.
The case started with Shirley, a resident of the Ridgewood Care Facility in Mount Pleasant, who died in October 2020 and voted in the presidential election. Her daughter, Judy Westphal-Mitchell, filed a complaint alleging her mother with "diminished mental capacity" was taken advantage of.
Racine County Sgt. Michael Luell investigated the issue.
"Judy was obviously concerned and asked, you know, ‘How can you actually do this?’ And she was informed that the employees would inquire as to how the resident had voted in the past and they would basically follow those guidelines and vote accordingly," Luell said. "Judy, quite astutely asked, ‘Are you telling me that if my mother can only recall JFK, that the staff would have voted Democrat for her?’ And the answer is yes."
"How could my mother know that her vote was recorded accurately, she couldn't see. Judy was informed by the staff that the staff hoped that the other employees would be honest."
Luell found the Ridgewood Care Facility had an unusual surge in voting activity in 2020. In past years it was roughly ten voters, but in 2020 it rose to 42. Families of eight of them say they think their relatives didn't have the cognitive ability to vote.
"VH would ask her own son, who are you? She couldn't even recognize her own son. And she, she happened to vote in two elections in 2020, but no other elections," said Sgt. Michael Luell, Racine County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer.
The sheriff accuses the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) of breaking the law. The commission is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. They voted 5-1 during the pandemic – when nursing homes were limiting visitors – that municipalities across the state should not send special voting deputies into nursing homes. In normal years, they are deputized by clerks – pairs of them normally help nursing home residents vote.
"That means the staff at the facility absolutely, positively cannot, by this law. assist in the execution of the vote," Luell said.
Sgt. Michael Luell, Racine County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer
But the WEC gave nursing home staff tips on how to help.
"That is the completion of the crime right there. Crimes throughout the state. All 72 counties, every nursing home, resident care facility, right there," Luelle alleged.
Sheriff Schmaling is now asking Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to investigate statewide.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling
Wisconsin Democrats called the Racine investigation a waste of taxpayer money and a publicity stunt, while former President Donald Trump urged people to watch the news conference.
The investigation only related to this one nursing home. But Sheriff Schmaling said he expects Thursday's announcement will lead to others across the state coming forward.
Schmaling is calling on Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to launch an immediate investigation.
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