Susan couldn't believe what she was hearing. Client after client, developmentally disabled person after developmentally disabled person all told the same story: Their vote was stolen from them.
Susan, a disability service coordinator who works with developmentally disabled adults who live in various assisted living facilities and group homes in and around Milwaukee, says every one of her more than 20 clients told her that they were either pressured to vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden or had a vote cast for Biden before they ever had a chance to see their ballot.
"I haven't been able to see them in person since March because of COVID, but we do Zoom calls regularly," said Susan, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, as she fears reprisal for coming forward. "Right after the election, one of my clients said that he voted for Biden but didn't want to."
Susan was confused, so she asked him what he meant.
"He told me that he was sad Biden won because Biden would make his social security payments go down," Susan explained in an extensive interview with "The Dan O'Donnell Show." "I asked him why he voted for Biden if he was worried about that and he said that one of his helpers had filled out his ballot for him."
Susan assumed her client was referring to a staff member at the group home where he lives. Amazingly, another client told her a nearly identical story. So did another. And another.
"I got curious after the first few told me what happened to them so I asked every one of my clients and every single one voted for Biden," she said. "One gentleman told me, 'Yeah, they just handed me a ballot that was already filled out.'"
A woman whom Susan lovingly refers to as a born contrarian ("She likes the Bears because everyone else likes the Packers") said she liked Trump in large measure because most of the staff at her home were Biden supporters.
"She told me, 'I really wanted to vote for Trump, but [a staff member at her home] said 'no, he's a bad man. We're voting for Biden,'" Susan explained. "And the staff member instructed her to vote for Biden. So she did. But she wasn't happy about it."
Wisconsin Statute 6.875 governs absentee voting in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and expressly prohibits staff members from assisting residents in filling out their ballots. Under this statute, a municipal clerk or local elections board must appoint two "special voting deputies" (one nominated by each major political party) to conduct all absentee voting.
"No individual who is employed or retained, or within the two years preceding appointment has been employed or retained, at a qualified retirement home or residential care facility in the municipality, or any member of the individual's immediate family...may be appointed to serve as a deputy," the statute holds.
In the three statewide elections in 2020, however, special voting deputies have not been allowed in assisted living facilities over fears of COVID-19 transmission. The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) ruled in March that it was too dangerous to allow deputies to assist with voting ahead of the Spring Election and reaffirmed in June that deputies would not be allowed in nursing homes ahead of the Fall Primary and General Elections.
As a result, nursing home staff members or others have been helping residents fill out ballots or, in the case of Susan's clients, simply filling out ballots on behalf of the residents and then having the residents sign them or forging the signatures.
"That's what most of them told me, that their ballot was already filled out," Susan said. "What was really interesting is that Biden was the only one that they voted for. I don't know if they voted in other races after my clients saw their ballots, but a number of them told me that the only one they voted for was president."
After talking with all of her clients--who all told nearly identical stories--Susan decided to come forward because she was disgusted by what she believes is a systemic effort to prey on the most vulnerable in society.
"It's really frustrating to see them taken advantage of like this," she said.
The Chief Election Observer in a different Wisconsin city than the ones in which Susan's clients reside told "The Dan O'Donnell Show" last week about the problems with the WEC's decision to ban special voting deputies from nursing homes this year and the huge potential for vote fraud that came with it.
"The last three elections, the staff assisted the voters," she said. "That's a whole other group of untrained, potentially dishonest voter assistants with really no controls or supervision in place. We just receive the voted absentee ballots back at the township with the voter's signature (if they can), the witness's signature and facility address on the ballot envelope, dropped off as a pack by the facility's activity director.
"If the voter has been assisted by someone, that assistant is supposed to sign the back of the ballot itself - whether that would actually happen if someone is using this whole process for fraud is obviously very doubtful, and it wouldn't be able to be traced anyway. At that point, it's just another absentee ballot."
Susan believes that this sort of fraud is rampant in group homes and nursing homes across the state since 100 percent of her clients experienced some form of it.
"If it happened to all of them, it's happening to a lot of people--the sort of people who we should be protecting and instead they're just being used to steal their votes," Susan said. "It's just heartbreaking."