Thanks to my friend and capital insider Ashley Schultz for bringing this event from the Supreme Court recount to my attention yesterday afternoon via Facebook. Here is her original posting from yesterday which is in the form of an email reposted by Charles Sykes. I probably would have overlooked it until this morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel if it hadn’t been posted on FB.
Now I know that Ms. Schultz was trying to ridicule the Kloppenburg campaign for over reaching during the recount for disenfranchising nuns. Who would be so cruel as to nullify the votes of nuns for crying out loud? Nuns! Sigh…
Well I am not going to impugn the honesty of a group of cloistered nuns. But after reading the initial post and later the MJS article, I saw something completely different.
Well, let’s start with the actual event. Prairie du Sac is home to a cloister of nuns and they vote via absentee ballot. Town of Sumter Clerk Donna Zeigler dropped off 18 absentee ballots before the election and picked them up in a sealed envelope the day of the election. They were duly counted and recorded during the actual election. During the recount it was noted that 18 absentee ballots were missing the witness signature. These ballots were challenged by the Kloppenburg campaign. Since the ballots couldn’t be matched to the voter, 18 of the 24 absentee ballots from the Township were withdrawn from the recount.
First things first…the Kloppenburg campaign did not disenfranchise 18 nuns. They challenged 18 absentee ballots and the election canvassers withdrew the 18 randomly selected ballots. Justice Prosser’s campaign made two appeals to have the ballots counted but the canvassers denied the appeals. So directly the canvassers disenfranchised 18 absentee voters.
But at the base of it, were these ballots correctly handled from day one? Since they were missing witness signatures from day one should they have even been counted on April 5th? If proper procedures weren’t being followed initially they should have been nullified weeks ago and this issue should never have seen the light of day.
Now here is an excerpt from Mr. Sykes post:
Yesterday, the canvas board reconsidered—bringing in the Town Clerk (Ziegler) to discuss the situation, and she very passionately objected to the dismissal—stating she knows these women, trusts them and has always handled the nun’s absentee ballots the same way. Again, the canvas board after a long and somewhat contentious conversation voted to reject the ballots—at the insistence of the Kloppenburg attorney.
Ok, so Town Clerk Ziegler has always handled the nun’s absentee ballots the same way. But were they being handled correctly or not? Did they have witness signatures in the past? If they’ve always been missing why wasn’t this issue addressed before now? How long have these absentee ballots been mishandled? And I am not questioning the veracity of the nuns but if the Town of Sumter is mishandling absentee ballots is there cause for alarm about potential voter fraud somewhere between the convent and the town hall?
And why are absentee ballots even being handled personally by the Town Clerk? Why aren’t they being mailed to and from the convent like other municipalities? Yes, sure, it’s a small town, we know everybody in town, and this is the way we’ve always done it. Well the canvassers apparently reviewed the ballots and procedures three times during the recount and tossed them. Town of Sumter needs to make some changes.
Now I do feel bad that any citizen of Wisconsin who took the time to vote in the Supreme Court race may have had his/her vote nullified. That certainly isn’t what I want nor anyone else that I know.
But I do find it funny that the Justice Prosser campaign would select this particular challenge of absentee ballots to ridicule. Because from a general reading of the proposed Voter ID bill, I think these fine women will be disenfranchised by the Republicans. These Cistercian nuns are cloistered which means that they can’t visit the local DMV office to get their free voter IDs. I mean there’s a reason they vote by absentee ballot. And I am not sure they could allow the DMV visit the convent to create the IDs even if the DMV were so inclined. And if somehow they could secure acceptable photo IDs, could they provide the photocopies with their absentee ballots that one version of the bill requires?
So, just because we always do it this way, all election commissions, town/county clerks, polling place volunteers, etc. have to do a better job of following all of the rules for elections…and don’t toss around accusations of an incidental disenfranchisement of a particular group during the recount (when it could have been avoided by following proper procedures) when a few months from now you intend to permanently disenfranchise them yourself!