Fireworks at Wisconsin Elections Commission meeting | WisCommunity

Fireworks at Wisconsin Elections Commission meeting

November 30, 2020 - 9:05pm
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The Wisconsin Elections Commission will hold their December meeting at 10:00 AM on Tuesday Dec. 1. The meeting will among other things certify the November elections for everything except President and Vice-President. Those federal elections canvasses were accepted on Monday by Ann Jacobs, the board chair. Expect that there will be some discussion about this as it is a contentious issue in the board because the Republican members wanted to hold on finishing the state vote canvas on those elections until the Tuesday meeting due to possible litigation. Chair Jacobs wanted to simply move forward on this, as has been the past practice, because it gave an opportunity for the Trump campaign to begin appealing the canvas earlier. The clock for that appeal started on Monday and will run for five days.

The meeting will be live-streamed and we will attempt to embed the meeting here once it begins, thanks to . Further details about the meeting are available at https://elections.wi.gov/node/6626.

Personal Appearances

The meeting began with dueling accounts from election officials and observers at the polls in a public comments session. Many of the callers were poll workers who wanted to report the care and transparency of the November election. These were countered by mostly Republican poll observers who were reporting many of the same issues outlined in the lawsuit filed this morning by the Trump campaign. 

As expected, commission member Dean Knudson objected strongly to how chair Ann Jacobs accepted the presidential election result canvass yesterday. The Republican members of the commission believe that this was an illegal behavior on Jacobs' part, and Knudson is suggesting that this action has destroyed the bi-partisan nature of the commission and that he no longer has any faith in her as chair. 

Commissioner Knudson has demanded that Jacobs resign as chair, and a motion was made to table the rest of the agenda for today until there can be a discussion of Jacobs' behavior. The motion failed 3-3, and Jacobs claims that the Republican members of the commission are mis-interpreting the law, and that the behavior in this election is identical to all of the elections in the past, including the ones that took place while Knudson was on either the GAB or the Elections Commission. 

Commissioner Spindell claimed that the actions yesterday were a "Democratic publicity ploy" on the part of Jacobs and staff. Spindell claims that Jacobs had no authority to certify the election. "Obviously this is long-range Democratic planning going on solely to mess up the Trump campaign". He explained that he is very disappointed in the partisan nature of the board's chair.

Commissioner Thomsen stated that she followed exactly the same procedures that have been followed in the past, and that Republican members of the boards of canvassers in Dane and Milwaukee counties had no objection to certifying the results. He stated that no one called for his resignation when he followed exactly the same procedures. "The only thing I see that's different is Ann Jacobs is a woman and I'm a white guy," Thomsen said.

Jacobs has refused to resign and asked that the commission move forward on the agenda. "I am not withdrawing as chair," she said. "What I did was not illegal."

Audit Report

Staff Member Richard Rydecki presented information on the equipment audit which has been completed. 182 of 183 reports have been completed by the already-stressed election officials throughout the state.  190 reporting units were selected, and 7 were excused as there were no voters in their unit. He explained how the tiers of reporting units were selected. 

A few anomalies were found. Some ballots were double-counted due to scanner jams. This was corrected when the ballots were hand counted. A few issues were caused by voters not marking their ballots correctly, including voting for a candidate then crossing them out. Voter intent can be determined by reading the ballot manually, but the scanners cannot read the ballots properly in these cases. 

An issue was found in the city of Oshkosh. There were 21 extra machine counted overvotes. The scanner in this case was caused by incorrectly trying to read a write in vote when there was actually a crease in the ballot. In that case a warning appears on the scanner and the election officials may either reject the ballot or accept it as is. Since these were absentee ballots they should have been given to the election inspector to determine the voter's intent. It appears that the advisory on how to handle this was not followed, and the election workers accepted these ballots despite the overvote issue. 

Commissioner Knudsen objected to the fact that the election was certified yesterday before the audit report was finished and read by the board. He asked that they not accept the audit report and table it until the next meeting when it can be fleshed out more clearly. This motion passed 6-0 so it will not be discussed at this meeting. Chair Jacobs clarified that the audit report was available before she accepted the canvass yesterday.

Commissioner Spindell complained that this audit report was not available until last night and that he is unwilling to vote on items that are not received early enough to consider. Chair Jacobs objected to his tone and that the staff has been working and sacrificing holidays to get the report to them before the meeting. Member Thomsen stated that his objections are "off-base" and that the staff is doing everything possible to get these items to them. 

Commissioner Knudson wanted to make clear that he has full faith in the machines and that there were, in particular, no problems with the Dominion hardware. He also stated that there were no actual claims of fraud in the lawsuit filed by Trump this morning, but that he reiterated that he believes Jacobs' actions yesterday were illegal.

Spring Ballot Forms

There was no discussion on the ballot format, but Commissioner Spindell asked that all of the rest of the items on today's agenda should be postponed. Commissioner Thomsen asked that they move forward and approve the ballot design rather than postpone due to other issues. Commissioner Knudson stated that in view of an issue with the folding of absentee ballots in the audit report, he does not feel that approving the ballots is not a routine issue, and asked that it be postponed. 

Discussion ensued about the difficulty of dealing with folding on the ballots since there are so many potential ballot layouts since the ballots are different in different jurisdictions. 

A motion was made to adopt the forms but to advise clerks on the issues of folding the ballots. This passed 5-1.

Canvassing certification and issuance of certificates

There are no requests for a recount other than the presidential race which is currently in appeal. 

Commissioner Knudson raised the issue that the agenda item was incorrectly noticed as the chair person does not certify for the election. Chair Jacobs pointed out that the only legal way to resolve this would be to end the meeting and have an emergency meeting in three hours to take it up again. The commission is required to take action on this today, and if they do not then elected candidates will not be able to take office. 

Chair Jacobs approved the certificates of election so that elected candidates can take office. A motion was made to go into closed session, allowing chair members to have lunch. They will re-convene in closed session at 1 PM.

The agenda of the meeting

Agenda

A.    Call to Order

B.    Administrator’s Report of Appropriate Meeting Notice 

C.    Personal Appearances (Time reserved for personal appearances may be limited by the Chair)

D.    Post-Election Audit Update     

E.    Ballot Designs – 2021 Spring Election 

F.    Canvassing, Certifying, and Issuing Certificates of Election by the Chairperson for the November 3, 2020, General Election (all offices except President and Recount)

G.    Closed Session

1.    Litigation Update - §19.85(1)(g) – The Commission may confer with legal counsel concerning litigation strategy. 

H.    Adjourn

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