Special counsels can be appointed at the state level, too, and it appears that one in Wisconsin has found evidence to confirm widespread election fraud.
The Wisconsin Assembly appointed Special Counsel Michael Gableman, a retired State Supreme Court justice, to investigate concerns about the 2020 election, and on Tuesday, his office issued its second interim report, which runs 150 pages. In Chapter 7, it confirms the conclusion of the Racine County Sheriff’s Office last fall that fraud occurred at Wisconsin nursing homes.
It was the sheriff’s investigation that led to this broader one. Sheriff Christopher Schmaling held a press conference last October 28 at which lead investigator Michael Luell presented their findings. (Note that this hour-long press conference got mostly crickets from national media.) Luell explained that under Wisconsin election law, local municipalities must dispatch two special voting deputies, or SVDs, to residential care facilities to supervise the voting. These officials are tasked with personally delivering ballots to residents and witnessing the voting process. Under law, only a relative or an SVD may assist a resident with the voting process. Once the resident has voted, the SVD seals the ballot envelope and delivers it to the elections clerk.
This sounds like a great plan to preserve the chain of custody and discourage undue influence. Unfortunately, the sheriff’s investigation found that the Ridgewood Care Center in Racine violated every one of those requirements. Amazingly, the blame for this can be traced back to the Wisconsin Election Commission, whose members had allegedly taken it upon themselves to tell municipalities not to use the SVD system and to instead just mail ballots to residents. Such a directive would be illegal.
So it was up to staffers to help residents complete their ballots, and according to the sheriff, they “helped” them, all right --- improperly completing sections of the ballots, mishandling ballots and failing to secure them, and going beyond just reading the ballots to actively discussing the elections and candidates. In legal parlance, that is a no-no.
As Sheriff Schmaling said during his press conference, his investigation had covered only the Ridgewood Care Center, when Racine County was home to 11 such facilities, and Racine County is just one of 72 counties. “There are literally hundreds and hundreds of these facilities throughout the state of Wisconsin,” he said. “We would be foolish to think for a moment that this integrity issue, this violation of the statute, occurred to just this small group of people at one care facility in one county in the entire state.”
Several days after their press conference, the Sheriff’s Office announced that they had forwarded their conclusions to District Attorney Patricia Hanson, recommending that five members of the Wisconsin Election Commission be charged with election fraud, including two felony counts. (Only one member was not cited.) Margot Cleveland has details on the specific charges in her report for The Federalist.
You can probably guess what happened next, which is to say nothing –- no charges were filed. After several months, DA Hanson concluded that she “lacked jurisdiction” and had no authority to prosecute the commissioners because they don’t live in Racine County and didn’t issue the “allegedly illegal directive doing away with SVD.” So, we're confused, as the sheriff's investigation had concluded they did do that.
And after deciding not to charge the commissioners, Hanson couldn’t very well charge the staff at the nursing homes, could she? She reasoned it this way: “[I]t would be unfair for me to expect these health care professionals would better understand the election law in Wisconsin than the Wisconsin Election Commission.” Never mind that she should have had higher expectations for the WEC; after lowering the bar for them, she was able to lower it even farther for the nursing home staff. Case dismissed!
Here’s some of the fallout as reported by a local news outlet, just a few days before the special counsel dropped his report.
Fortunately it didn’t end with that DA, and we now have an eye-opening special counsel report. This would not have happened without the sheriff’s investigation, which had stemmed from a complaint by some individual about potential violations at just one nursing home. Moral: one person speaking up CAN make a difference.
And now, the special counsel apparently has the goods. “Rampant fraud and abuse occurred statewide at Wisconsin’s nursing homes and other residential care facilities,” his report says.
This conclusion came after his investigation of more than 90 nursing homes in five different counties. We’re talking about blatant violations of the election code by nursing home staff and administrators, such as illegal handling of absentee ballots, illegal assistance in marking ballots, illegally “witnessing” the voting, and possible forgery. According to the report, the fraud and abuse resulted ultimately from the unlawful acts of the WEC’s members and staff, because on June 24, 2020, they did issue that directive to mail the ballots to the nursing homes and just follow the rules for regular absentee voting by mail.
The special counsel found “improbably high voting rates” at nursing homes. He was even able to determine that some of the filled-out ballots did not reflect the intent of the nursing home residents. He found suspected forgeries of signatures and votes by people who had been judged incompetent and could not legally vote. He found votes "cast" by people who were unaware of their surroundings and didn’t even know what year it was.
The WEC had tried to use COVID to justify what it had done, saying they didn’t want seniors ”disenfranchised.” Special Counsel Gableman was stern in his assessment of that: “In no way was WEC’s mandating illegal activity a ‘solution’ to ‘disenfranchisement’ and to suggest that WEC’s actions were a good faith effort at doing so ignores the facts and the law.” He went on to point out that the problems he had found, resulting from their directive, WERE examples of disenfranchisement.
Gableman said that to get the full picture of the significance of the fraud, “a state-wide, complete audit of all absentee votes from all facilities” required to use the SVD system is necessary.
In the 2020 election, Wisconsin went for Biden by a margin of just 20,682 votes. Since about 92,000 people reside in Wisconsin nursing homes, the findings of this investigation cast “doubt on the election result” according to the special counsel report. The Wisconsin State Assembly might authorize Gableman to expand his audit, but that’s not official at this writing. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul called the sheriff’s original investigation a “publicity stunt” and is highly unlikely to do anything with this one. That seems like a great reason for voters to show up in droves this fall and boot him out of office.
Incidentally, the report has chapters dealing with other issues in Wisconsin that we’ve discussed before, such as the infusion of money from Mark Zuckerberg and the Center for Tech and Civic Life, and potential violations of law concerning ballot security at dropboxes. Look for social media to flag discussions of this report as heretical and news outlets to trash it (Politico and BuzzFeed already have), even though it’s the product of a special counsel investigation and contains, presumably, facts.