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Dem Party email raises recount integrity concerns in liberal Dane County

By   /   November 29, 2016  /   No Comments

MADISON, Wis. – A Democratic Party email calling for temporary workers to man a massive and unprecedented presidential election recall effort in Dane County had Republicans crying foul this week.

The Democratic Party of Dane County advised that County Clerk Scott McDonell was looking for temp workers beginning Thursday to help check over 316,000 ballots cast in this month’s election.

Recount workers could earn $20 an hour, maybe more, on 12-hour shifts, the notice stated.

“We’re asked to forward this to people we think would be up to the job and have time to do this. Please send people to [email protected] if interested – or if you’re interested,’ the message said.

While Dane County is one of the more liberal places in the country (more than 70 percent of voters cast ballots for Democrats in the most recent election), Scott Grabins said the email’s suggestion the county government was working exclusively with Democrats to fill the election positions was wrong.

“When I saw that email I was pretty pissed,” said Grabins, chairman of the Republican Party of Dane County. “The way it was worded didn’t explicitly say Scott McDonell asked them to do this, but it inferred a lot.”

McDonell told Wisconsin Watchdog that the whole matter was a “communications problem.”

Photo by Twitter.com

‘I’LL TAKE THE BLAME’: Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell says a partisan email soliciting workers for the presidential election recount was a ‘communications problem.’

“I’ll take the blame,” the clerk said.

The problem, he said, was that the Democratic Party did not have lists of their partisan poll workers who could be recruited for the recount effort. Republicans did. He said he wanted to make sure both parties were represented in the hiring process.

In an email to McDonell, Grabins pointed out that the Wisconsin Recount Manual requires election inspectors who worked on Election Day be contacted first to perform the work.

“Are these temp workers to support those who previously worked as Election Inspectors and are there guardrails to ensure that all positions are filled on an equal basis and not just through the Democrat party?” Grabins wrote.

The short answer on Tuesday was, yes, according to McDonell.

The clerk said he has filled the 36 daily positions with experienced representatives from both parties. He said he doesn’t think a single person who responded to the Democratic Party solicitation will be on the recount team because the clerk’s office, as of Tuesday, had enough personnel to fill the slots.

“We have been prioritizing poll workers and chief election inspectors. The Democratic Party didn’t have lists of partisan poll workers like the Republicans did,” McDonell said. “We’re trying to make sure Republicans and Democrats who were poll workers are in those (ballot review) rooms. The emphasis has been on, ‘Have you worked the polls?’”

RELATED: Lawmaker: Wisconsin recount campaign ‘appalling’ and ‘tyrannical’

Grabins said he felt a lot better Tuesday about the situation after making contact with the clerk and seeing some changes made. If it hadn’t been for a Dane County Republican finding the Democratic Party email, Grabins said he wonders if the recount roster would have been much more heavily weighted to Dem poll workers.

“I feel like (McDonell) has been scrambling a little bit today to make sure this does come off as bipartisan. He did email me back today to say they were looking for Republicans,” the GOP chair said.

Earlier, Grabins said he reached out to election workers in the more rural and conservative portions of the county. They had not been asked to help in the recount effort. Some finally were contacted on Tuesday, he said.

“Once I reached out (to McDonell) with this email and we have now engaged, he’s been upfront since then,” Grabins added. “I’m very thankful someone thought to forward this. I don’t know if we would have connected with all these positions we needed to fill otherwise.”

It has been near pandemonium since last Friday, when Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and fellow third party candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente filed separate requests with state elections officials seeking a recount of the Wisconsin vote. Republican Donald Trump won the Badger State with more than 22,000 votes. Stein raised the specter of election fraud in battleground states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – states Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton expected to win. The fraud proposition, that the “system is rigged,” was an idea widely rejected by the left when Trump suggested as much in the weeks leading up to the election.

Stein captured less than 1 percent of the vote in Wisconsin, but under state law she has the right to call for a recount.

On Tuesday, the Green Party candidate paid the required $3,499,689 charged by the Wisconsin Election Commission to conduct the statewide recount. She has reportedly raised millions more in her campaign to review the vote.

Stein complained about the bill.

“While this excessive fee places an undue burden on our efforts, we are committed to paying this cost in order to ensure that the voting in Wisconsin was accurate,” Stein said in a statement.

McDonell said the recount, slated to begin Thursday, is daunting. It’s twice the number of ballots in the bitter recount of the 2011 Supreme Court election. McDonell said 36 positions will be needed for as many as 12 days, with nights and weekends required. Some workers will tabulate ballots, others will check absentee ballot envelopes and verify election poll book information, the clerk said. Observers from the campaigns and parties also will be on hand.

“That’s what’s stressing me out,” McDonell said, “making sure everyone is going to show up throughout the count.”

“I’ll know a lot more after a couple of days … we’ll know what we can get done in a day.”

On Tuesday, a Dane County Circuit Court judge rejected Stein’s lawsuit demanding each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties conduct a hand-count of the ballots. Wisconsin has until Dec. 13 to complete the recount or it may run the risk of abandoning its 10 electoral votes.

Each county is free to decide whether it will hand count its ballots, a much more labor-intensive process than via machine. Dane County has opted for the more laborious process.


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.