Racine sheriff recommends charges against Wisconsin's election commissioners

NOW: Racine sheriff recommends charges against Wisconsin’s election commissioners

RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Racine County sheriff has formally referred charges to a local district attorney to review claims of potential voter fraud at a Mount Pleasant nursing home.

Sheriff Christopher Schmaling sent the request to the Racine County District Attorney’s Office alleging five out of six members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission violated election laws.

The move comes days after Racine officials claimed they have evidence WEC committed felonies for sending absentee ballots to nursing homes instead of special voting deputies to help seniors vote during the pandemic. 

The sheriff is recommending charges against five election commissioners, but all six members back in March of 2020 unanimously voted to prohibit election officials from entering care facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Instead, the commission told clerks to send absentee ballots to nursing homes.

Commissioner Bob Spindell, a Republican, is the only one not recommended for charges.

Officials also reignited calls for a statewide investigation, but Attorney General Josh Kaul has resisted, saying he's not aware of similar incidents across the state. 

"The sheriff’s office is again calling on Attorney General Josh Kaul to conduct a statewide investigation into the illegal directives issued by the Wisconsin Election Commission," Schmaling said. "Based upon the failure of Attorney General Josh Kaul to initiate a statewide investigation, I have forwarded charging recommendations to the Racine County District Attorney’s Office for their review."

Kaul slammed Racine officials' move to recommend charges. 

“This disgraceful publicity stunt shows an appalling lack of judgment," Kaul said in a statement to CBS 58. "This is a transparently political effort and an abuse of authority.”

Democratic lawmakers, like 7th District State Senator Chris Larson, also had strong words on the matter.

"There has been a lot of eyes on Wisconsin over the past year, and what they're trying to do is just drum up a whole lot of dirt and a whole lot of smoke where there's absolutely nothing. So they're trying to accuse people of election fraud, and the real fraud is with this sheriff," said Larson. "I'd hope people would start treating this clown for what he is, somebody who is just trying to get partisan attention, and ignore what he's trying to do, because frankly it disparages not just him and his office, but it disparages our democracy and Wisconsin."

The Racine County sheriff alleges sending absentee ballots to a Mount Pleasant nursing home, instead of special voting deputies, resulted in employees at the care facility helping some incompetent residents vote.

Meagan Wolfe, the nonpartisan leader of WEC, didn't cast a vote in that decision, but is being accused by Racine officials and Republican lawmakers of breaking state law.

Wolfe has dismissed those claims and said the change in procedures was necessary to allow individuals the right to vote.

Wolfe has also refusing to step down amid calls from GOP lawmakers. 

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