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Sunday, December 4th, 2022
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MADISON — With Wisconsin’s spring election here, lawmakers and poll watchers say they’ve confirmed multiple incidents of ballot harvesting in Milwaukee and Racine, in defiance of a judge’s ruling.

Conservative activist Ken Dragotta tells Wisconsin Spotlight that he and state Rep. Janel Brandtjen witnessed multiple incidents of individuals bringing in ballots they claimed to be from voters at Milwaukee’s early voting sites.

“We traveled to about 75 percent of the facilities. We also asked chief election inspectors whether or not they were accepting multiple ballots from voters. They all said yes,” said Dragotta, who also serves as a member of the Republican Party of Waukesha board. “We asked, ‘Are you doing anything to make sure you are not ballot harvesting?’ They said it’s not ballot harvesting, that Claire said it’s okay.”

The Claire in question is Milwaukee Election Commission Administrator Claire Woodall-Vogg, who is the subject of a number of election integrity complaints stemming from the 2020 presidential election. She recently told CBS 58 in Milwaukee that her election staff will accept multiple ballots if they are for individuals who are deemed “indefinitely confined.”

But Milwaukee isn’t checking voter IDs.

“There is no requirement to show proof of ID when returning a ballot and we are not asking for any other proof,” Woodall-Vogg told the TV station

There is a court ruling in place on the subject, however.

In January, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren issued a ruling that absentee ballot drop boxes and ballot harvesting (someone other than the voter returning his or her ballot) are not permitted in state law. Bohren wrote that “an elector must personally mail or deliver his or her own absentee ballot,” with the exception of limited allowances.

The case is now pending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ordered Bohren’s ruling will stand for today’s election. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case next week, and is expected to issue a final ruling by this summer.

Bohren ruled the Wisconsin Elections Commission was wrong in issuing guidance to election clerks that the practice was allowed. WEC withdrew the illegal guidance following the judge’s order.

But the argument is whether the injunction against ballot harvesting covers only the state elections agency, or local election clerks as well.

Sources fear ballot harvesting from liberal activist groups in the so-called “WI-5” cities — the largest Democrat strongholds that received millions of dollars from a liberal group funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Dragotta and other election observers last week said they witnessed vans with out-of-state license plates at Milwaukee’s Central Count location. When the drivers of the vans saw they were being photographed, they fled, Dragotta and others said. Wisconsin Spotlight was provided photos of the vans.

Ballot harvesting appears to be a problem in at least one other “WI-5” city.

Sen. Van Wangaard (R-Racine) issued a press release Sunday stating that a recent review of the VoteRacine.org’s website shows the city ignoring the Wisconsin Supreme Court order on ballot harvesting.

“Yes, a ballot can be returned by someone who is not the voter,” the election website states.

The lawmaker called for sanctions on Racine Mayor Cory Mason and City Clerk Tara Coolidge, asserting it was a conscious decision by the same city officials who helped broker the Zuckbucks deal to ignore the law.

A recent letter to cities from the Wisconsin League of Municipalities advised that election clerks will have to take into consideration both state and federal law when considering what to do on the Supreme Court’s order.

“Clerks who refuse to accept absentee ballots delivered by third parties on behalf of disabled electors may face claims they effectively prevented those voters from voting and face litigation under the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and Americans with Disabilities Act, or both,” the letters states.

Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which filed the lawsuit on drop boxes and ballot harvesting, said, “We think that what they (Racine and Milwaukee) are doing is not permitted by statute.”

Still, no one is held accountable.

Madison became ground zero in the ballot harvesting debate in the days before the hotly contested 2020 presidential election when it hosted its Democracy in the Park event. Local elections officials claim it was legal because they did not hand out ballots at the parks, only collected them. What’s often forgotten is that Joe Biden’s campaign inundated Madison radio stations with ads promoting the ballot harvesting event.

Elections officials, including the Wisconsin Elections Commission, did not return Wisconsin Spotlight’s requests for comment

“Voters deserve full transparency, including 24/7 cameras at the facilities, or the process in every community will be chaotic,”  said state Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), chair of the Assembly committee investigating the 2020 elections.

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