Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling announced in a news release Wednesday that he had referred recommendations for criminal charges against five of the six members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) to Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson, a Republican.
Last week, Schmaling called a news conference to lay out allegations of election fraud against the commissioners but said he hadn’t sent the investigation to the DA and was instead calling for a statewide investigation into the matter from Attorney General Josh Kaul. After Kaul declined to open an investigation, Schmaling sent his recommendations, which include felony charges.
Schmaling and his investigator allege that when the WEC voted unanimously in Spring 2020 not to send special voting deputies (SVDs) into nursing home facilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’d broken the law. SVDs are pairs of people appointed by local election clerks to go to nursing homes to assist with voting. At the time of the unanimous vote, visitors weren’t being allowed into nursing homes to protect residents from the virus so the WEC voted to forgo the two visits SVDs are required to attempt to make to nursing homes and instead use the normal absentee ballot process.
Schmaling alleged that once the residents of a Mount Pleasant nursing home used the absentee ballot process, they were illegally coerced by facility staff into voting. Schmaling said some of the residents were cognitively impaired. People with cognitive disabilities are still able to vote unless a judge declares them incompetent.