In early October, Janet's mother passed away at her assisted living facility following a long battle with dementia. Ethel, who was 95, lived a long, full life and Janet did not consider her death a surprise.
What was a surprise, however, was the fact that two weeks earlier, Ethel returned an absentee ballot.
"She voted," said Janet, whose name has been changed to protect the identities of both her and Ethel (which is also a pseudonym). "She hasn't been lucid enough to make any qualified decisions for years. I was her power of attorney and had legal paperwork stating she was incapacitated and not able to make her own decisions, which is on record at her facility."
"The Dan O'Donnell Show" has reviewed both Ethel's voting record and her death notice, which indicates that she was born in 1925 and passed away in early October.
Janet, who fears reprisal if she reveals her real name, confirms that her mother's condition steadily worsened since she first entered assisted living in 2012 and that since that time, she has been wholly unable to make any decisions on her own; least of all for whom to vote.
"She has not watched TV or read a newspaper in years, just did not care about it anymore," Janet says.
Ethel's publicly available voting records, however, indicate that she has voted absentee by mail in every election since 2012 save for the 2017 spring election, 2018 spring election, 2018 partisan primary, 2018 gubernatorial election, and 2019 spring election.
After what appears to be a three-year gap in voting after the 2016 presidential election, Ethel's records indicate that she began voting again in the 2020 spring election, which was conducted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result saw a dramatic increase in mail-in voting.
In March, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) suspended the requirement that absentee ballots are hand-delivered to assisted living facilities by qualified Special Voting Deputies.
"The Commission directed municipal clerks to mail absentee ballots directly to residents in nursing homes and care facilities instead of dispatching teams of special voting deputies to those places where vulnerable populations live," WEC said in a statement following a special meeting on March 12th. "Normally, teams of special voting deputies and political party observers conduct voting in common areas and potentially in residents’ rooms to assist with absentee voting."
Because WEC determined that those deputies and poll watchers were "non-essential workers," they would no longer be allowed into homes like the one in which Ethel had been living. A ballot would instead be mailed directly to her.
Records indicate that she requested a ballot on March 26th and filled it out and returned it ahead of the April 7th spring election. A ballot was then sent to her again ahead of this month's presidential election.
"I'm calling fraud," Janet says. "There is no way she could have voted herself or even with help. She knew who she was, who I was, but would see odd things like planes and helicopters landing and taking off. She had trouble remembering what she ate at her last meal."
Janet has contacted both the municipal clerk in the Racine County municipality in which her mother is recorded as having voted as well as the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which has yet to get back to her.
"The clerk stated that they cannot deny anyone the right to register to vote and unless they receive the paperwork of her incapacitation, the care facility will receive her ballot," Janet explains. "It will be interesting to see who had been signing her ballots."
Dan O'Donnell discussed this extensively on Thursday's show. Click on the player below to listen and click here to follow "The Dan O'Donnell Show" podcast so you don't miss a thing.