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GAB says no penalties for poll violations in 21st Senate election

By   /   June 26, 2012  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Justin Phillips didn’t mince words late Tuesday afternoon.

“To put it bluntly and simply, it’s a mess,” said Phillips, campaign manager for state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine.

Phillips was describing what he and other critics of the 21st Senate District recall election see as a cluster muck of voting irregularities and disregarded laws.

Meanwhile, the state’s elections watch dog acknowledged that while the law may not have been followed at times, there is nothing in it to punish poll workers for “administrative errors.”

Phillips tells Wisconsin Reporter that most of the reported 116 votes cast in Racine’s Ward 2 without signatures on the voting list had been reconciled as of Tuesday.

The problem, Phillips said, was that many of the voters signed the wrong poll book.

“That still speaks to the fact that these poll workers were not properly trained or they ignored their training, which caused the stir that it did,” the campaign official said.

Racine County and city clerks could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Phillips estimated that there may be hundreds of unsigned supplemental poll lists in Racine, and many more incidents of voter irregularities.

The recount of the disputed race, in which Racine Democrat John Lehman appears to have bested Wanggaard on June 5 by more than 800 votes, had reportedly moved through nearly half of all of Racine’s 36 wards by late Tuesday.

Wisconsin’s new voter ID law — sans the legally contested identification provision — requires voters to sign ballot books and supplemental poll lists when they vote.

While poll workers apparently did not follow that law in some cases, the Government Accountability Board on Monday said the votes will stand — that throwing out the ballots would only disenfranchise voters.

On Tuesday, GAB spokesman Reid Magney said there are no consequences for what agency officials have described as “administrative errors.”

“Voters shouldn’t be penalized for errors,” Magney reiterated Tuesday, adding that state election law doesn’t set out “any specific penalties” for elections officials who fail to make voters sign poll books.

Magney said the issue appeared to be an oversight, with no malicious intent.

Phillips said he hoped there was no malice involved but remained dubious, noting reports that showed a large number of poll workers had signed recall petitions.

The Wanggaard campaign has questioned the fairness of the application of election laws.

“During a draw down, when you find a situation where a poll worker hadn’t initialed the ballot, that’s the first vote that gets tossed out,” Phillips said. “We want some continuity in the ruling.”

Asked if Wanggaard would legally challenge the results based on the GAB’s determinations, Phillips said it was too early to determine the campaign’s next step. Phillips did say that the campaign would weigh its options.

Lehman could not be reached for comment, nor could his spokesman.