I recorded this interview, with permission, at 2:00 pm on Election Day for our Democratic primary for the recall election in WI Senate District 10, July 12. This primary resulted in Shelly Moore (D) defeating fake (pseudo Democrat) candidate Isaac Weix, who is a Republican. Weix was injected into the Senate race in order to delay the general election on Aug. 9 (the Republican Party stated that their incumbents needed more time to campaign). Moore will now advance to face Sheila Harsdorf (R) who has held the Senate seat for over a decade.
A 67-yr-old life-long Democrat in District 10 received a confusing robocall and an inconsistent absentee ballot request form from the group Wisconsin Right to Life. The robocall instructed her that she “will be receiving an absentee ballot application…in the next few days…send it back to us…” That application came the following day, July 12, and she knew she did not have time to follow WRTL instructions. After hearing similar confusing reports from all over our district, I decided to call WRTL for clarification. A woman named Betty answered the phone, and surrendered the call to another woman part way through who did not identify herself.
In the interview, WRTL explained that executive director, Barbara Lyons, wrote and read the script used for the robocall. Wisconsin Right To Life confirmed that they contracted a group from Virginia (703-410-3201) and actually planned the robocalls to land on the day before Dist. 10’s primary election. When I said that voters are frustrated and confused – Betty, at the WRTL office, admitted that robocalls were “very, very poor timing on our part. It was supposed to have been done yesterday.” WRTL explained that the robocalls were planned for July 11 only, but the contracting company “chose to complete it today,” when they allegedly were unable to fulfill the contract on the agreed date. WRTL has denied any wrong doing.
In the robocall, constituents were told to “complete that application and send it back to us in the next 7 days…voting absentee will ensure that your vote is counted…” However, the last day for mailing absentee ballot request forms was actually Thursday July 7, 4-5 days prior to the calls going out to voters. In my interview with them, WRTL asserted that the robocalls and absentee ballot request forms “were intended to be for the general election, not the primary.”
However, the robocall does not specify which election, potentially leaving listeners waiting for their application and staying home during the primary. WRTL even admits that their plan was for the robocall to go out on the day before the primary (yet they candidly concede that this was “poor timing” and confusing for voters). Furthermore, though the robocall does not mention the Democratic primary, the absentee ballot request form indicates that it may be used “for the primary election scheduled for July 12…” RTL App 1, RTL App 2, RTL App 3 (look at the bold print halfway down the page), RTL App 4
Another problem with the robocall is that WRTL requests that people “send it back to us….” The absentee ballot request form even has the address provided: Absentee Ballot Processing Center; P.O. Box 1327, Madison, WI 53701-1327.
When I asked: “Do you turn in the absentee applications when people send them to you?”
WRTF answered: “No, we don’t. People send them ah…and then their city clerk gets them and then um..ah…um…a clerk will send the ballot back to them.” She further clarified that someone looks at the addresses and sends them to the appropriate clerk, who then sends the ballot to the expectant voter.
In addition, WRTL has squared off against the Federal Elections Commission. They are headed to the Supreme Court partially concerning the legality of campaign advertisements used by WRTL during election season. Out of respect for the vital work that our local voting clerks are conducting and not wanting to force bias, I approached a professional in a nearby state for comment instead.
Renee Matlock, MI election official, had this to say after reviewing the WRTL robocall, absenttee ballot request form, and interview:
“It takes a lot to leave me dumbfounded but I must admit that (robo)call did it. I’m an election official with 30 years of experience who has seen enough voter fraud over 30 years to know voter fraud when I see and hear it. Someone, regardless of their political leanings, who is not a clerk of the election and saying to voters “return your absentee ballot application to us for processing” IS committing election fraud…
As an election official the very first thought I am going to have if I get a packet of absentee ballot applications from a group (any group) instead of directly from the voters themselves is “election fraud” and I am NOT even going to be processing them because it is likely they are fraudulent applications. My second thought is going to be to pick up the phone and make three phone calls (State Police, Bureau of Elections and FEC) because it’s a CRIME for me to suspect election fraud and NOT report it.
Then the issue of the WRTL absentee ballot request form, the correct address in Madison to send absentee ballot applications to is Government Accountability Board PO Box 7984 Madison, WI 53707-7984 and that is decidedly NOT the address on this card nor is the address on the card any official government address that I can locate through the state election board. That leads me to a conclusion which I am not liking at all. That conclusion being the group in question is either (a) planning to mass mail the applications to the assorted clerks (which the clerks will NOT process OR have great difficulty processing with hours of extra time and also taxpayer money getting them to the appropriate place. The cost of correctly processing them if they are sent to the wrong clerk is going to be astronomical.) or (b) they are intending to “leave people hanging” waiting for an absentee ballot that will never arrive. Either way it is disenfranchising voters who aren’t reading closely – regardless of their political affiliations.
Further, the application specifically states “I request that an absentee ballot be sent to me for the primary election scheduled for July 12th and the general election scheduled for August 9th in the Wisconsin Senate recall election.” Now, I am scratching my head here trying to figure out why on earth they would send something to voters for the Primary election so that it arrives AFTER the last date to apply for an absentee ballot… The choices are “poor planning” or “disenfranchisement” and given the REST of the form… I’m betting on “a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise voters” over simple “poor planning” because the fine print DOES state “This form is not an official form by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.” which could, if one is being generous, be construed to be “notice” that the voter must fill out the official form in order to actually receive an absentee ballot.
Finally, in my experience, senior citizens and college students are the most easily disenfranchised voters. Recent high school graduates who have moved on to college tend to be uninformed as to the process… In contrast, senior citizens have years of experience with the process and tend to perform the same actions each time. So, if someone sends them what appears to be a valid application to vote absentee they are likely to fill it out and return it, in many instances without ever looking at the address they are mailing it to.”
During the interview, even WRTL was confused or uncertain about dates and their own literature several times. They even admitted in the interview that, “It is very confusing for voters….” Then, it is pretty simple – stop adding confusion to our election process. There is too much at stake in our district, state, and country to tolerate any kind of practices that confuse or disenfranchise even one voter, no matter which side of the aisle.