Ladies and gentlemen, why are we here? Is it to re-litigate a month-old election? Is it to try to change that election’s results? It most certainly is not. It is to do what each and every one of us here has sworn to the people of Wisconsin that we would do; to protect and defend them and their most sacred right.
And right now, ladies and gentlemen, that right is in grave danger.
My name is Dan O’Donnell and I am a University of Wisconsin Law School graduate who is now a talk show host on WISN Radio in Milwaukee and WIBA Radio in Madison, but more than that, I am an investigative journalist. The nature of my work means that I am an opinion journalist as well, but the essence of my work is investigation with one goal: The truth.
Ladies and gentlemen, the disturbing truth that I have discovered over the past year of investigating is that here in Wisconsin, our right to vote has been perverted by fraud allowed to run so rampant by the very people we trust to administer our elections that the most vulnerable among us are having their most sacred right—their right to vote—stolen from them.
Shortly after the election, I was contacted by 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.
Every single one of her more than 20 clients told her that they were either pressured to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or had a vote cast for Biden in their name.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Susan is unable to visit her clients in their living facilities so she conducts regular Zoom calls with them. In the days after the election, several of those clients told her that they voted for Biden even though they didn’t want to.
As she relayed to me: "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. One gentleman told me, 'Yeah, they just handed me a ballot that was already filled out.'"
Another woman, who Susan lovingly described as a born contrarian who likes the Chicago Bears because everyone else here likes the Packers, told Susan that she really wanted to vote for President Trump primarily because all of the staff members in her facility are Biden supporters.
Susan said: "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. And the staff member instructed her to vote for Biden. So she did. But she wasn't happy about it."
None of us should be happy about this. These are severely cognitively and developmentally impaired people who rely on their caregivers for everything. But those caregivers have betrayed that trust.
Ladies and gentlemen, this has happened over and over and over here in Wisconsin—at assisted living facilities and nursing homes across the state. The law is so disregarded and the rules put in place are so lax that even the dead are being allowed to vote.
Ethel was one of them. She was 95 years old and passed away at her nursing home in October after a long battle with dementia brought on by a stroke.
Her daughter Janet contacted me after discovering that Ethel not only voted absentee from that nursing home, but has voted absentee for years even though she has not been mentally competent enough to since at least 2012.
In fact, as her mental state deteriorated, her voting became more regular. How could this be?
Janet has filed a police report and in it, under penalty of obstruction of justice, says “she sometimes could not recognize me, remember what her last meal was or what day it even was.”
Yet she voted, and even though Janet died on October—and even though it is illegal for a deceased person’s vote to count—Ethel’s vote was counted.
Janet immediately went to her mother’s care facility, telling police:
I inquired who had requested a ballot for her and had access to her to assist her in filling out the ballot as I have not been able to visit her personally for months. They never gave me an answer on how she even received a ballot.”
The answer, sadly, lies in the unconscionable manner in which the Wisconsin Elections Commission—the very board that this state trusts to fairly and impartially administer elections—ignored the clear letter of state law and made vote fraud like this less a possibility than an inevitability.
Time and again, often using COVID-19 as an excuse, the WEC simply replaced the law with its own disastrous guidelines.
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.
The statue makes clear that "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.”
However, the WEC determined in March that COVID-19 made it simply too dangerous to allow these special voting deputies in nursing homes, so they willfully violated the law and allowed nursing home staff members or anyone else who had access to the facility to help residents vote.
These people are not trained, they are not observed, and they are legally not allowed to help people vote, but they did anyway—because the WEC told them they could.
Unsurprisingly, this power was abused.
Janet told law enforcement that she believes the facility’s activities coordinator or social worker stole her mother’s vote, since Ethel was so diminished mentally that she could no longer follow current events.
In her sworn statement, she said: “I inquired how they made her choice without any knowledge of current events or news? He told me ‘They ask the residents who they had voted for in the past, and following party lines, that would be the choice.’
“I asked, ‘So if she could only recall JFK as president, Democrat would be the choice? He replied, ‘Yes.’ Asking him about [my mother’s] impaired vision, how could she even be sure that whoever ‘assisted’ would fill the ballot out to her choice? He said that he hoped that those who assisted were honest.”
Ladies and gentlemen, does that blind hope sound like acceptable oversight of election integrity to you?
It wasn’t for Miriam. She died on October 10th and in the final six months of her life had mentally degenerated to the point where she could no longer even speak English. She was born in Germany, and for months, could only speak German.
Yet somehow she voted absentee in both the August primary and November’s election. If she could no longer understand English, how could she have filled out a ballot in English?
She couldn’t. But she did. Or rather, her family told me, someone else did for her. As one family member put it: “This is fraud, pure and simple.”
Once again, even though Miriam died three weeks after casting her ballot—three weeks before Election Day—and even though under Wisconsin law her vote could not be counted, it was counted.
Ladies and gentlemen, for more than a month now I have been investigating shockingly similar stories of vote fraud targeting the most vulnerable among us: A 102 year-old woman who suffered a stroke six years ago and doesn’t recognize her own children yet has been voting absentee in every single election, a 101 year-old man who is so far gone that his daughter told me “I want to know who’s voting for him because there’s no way he can vote on his own,” a 95 year-old woman who could no longer form complete sentences, no longer hold a pencil to fill out a ballot, but who somehow filled out a ballot on October 12th while in hospice, two days before she died.
Yes, her vote was illegally counted, too.
So were the votes of literally tens of thousands of people who committed election fraud by falsely claiming to be indefinitely confined.
Wisconsin Statute 6.86(2) allows voters to list themselves as "indefinitely confined because of age, physical illness or infirmity" or if they are "disabled for an indefinite period." This allows them to have absentee ballots automatically sent to them without having to fill out separate ballot request forms.
Also, crucially, it allows them to bypass Wisconsin’s Voter ID law.
As the statute provides, a voter may, “in lieu of providing proof of identification, submit with his or her absentee ballot a statement signed by the same individual who witnesses voting of the ballot which contains the name and address of the elector and verifies that the name and address are correct."
Last year, the MacIver Institute found, there were a total of 72,000 indefinitely confined voters in this state. Right now, there are nearly 250,000 indefinitely confined voters. That’s a 238 percent increase in just one year.
Of those new indefinitely confined voters, the Republican Party of Wisconsin determined that 31,000 in Milwaukee County and 15,000 in Dane County do not have a photo ID on file with their local clerk’s office. That’s an 854 percent increase in Milwaukee County and 1,062 percent increase in Dane County.
It also means that there are 46,000 voters in those two counties who voted without having to show a photo ID in direct violation of Wisconsin law.
Why did such a massive number of people in Wisconsin’s two largest counties suddenly decide to illegally avoid the Voter ID law by claiming indefinite confinement? Because the clerks of those counties illegally told them to.
On March 25th, just days before Wisconsin’s Presidential Primary, both Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell and Milwaukee County Clerk George Christianson issued guidance that because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” emergency order, all voters were confined to their home and could claim indefinite confinement regardless of whether they themselves were actually "indefinitely confined because of age, physical illness…infirmity” or “physical disability.”
This advice was so patently absurd and so unlawful that the Wisconsin Supreme Court actually took the highly unusual step of intervening to rule that McDonnell’s and Christianson’s "advice was legally incorrect" and potentially dangerous because "voters may be misled to exercise their right to vote in ways that are inconsistent with Wis. Stat. 6.86(2)."
The damage was already done, and immediately after McDonnell and Christianson issued their unlawful advice, the number of indefinitely confined voters ballooned from 72,000 to 200,000. Ahead of November’s Presidential Election, an additional 49,000 voters marked themselves as indefinitely confined.
Tens of thousands of them weren’t actually indefinitely confined.
They attended jazz concerts, parties, and weddings, went to work, and even traveled out of state. One woman I investigated even has a Facebook profile picture that includes the phrase "I cannot stay home, I'm a nurse."
One woman claimed indefinite confinement but posted videos of her wedding on July 13th. Another posted a picture of herself and her boyfriend at Devil's Lake State Park. Another posted in early August about visiting Hobby Lobby and going to church with others.
She posted: "Life is better together!"
One man visited "Vern's cabin" in September. Another posted a picture of himself on a bike ride in October. A woman attended a party that same month. How do I know? I was at that same party. She was and is most certainly not indefinitely confined.
Each one of these voters may have committed election fraud, which under Wisconsin Statute 12.13 can involve making "false statements to the municipal clerk, board of election commissioners, or any other election official whether or not under oath."
Since a declaration of indefinite confinement is a statement to a local election official or board that one is either "disabled" or confined to their home due to "age, physical illness or infirmity," a false declaration could be a Class I felony punishable by 3.5 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Why were these clerks encouraging mass election fraud? Why didn’t the Wisconsin Election Commission punish them or rebuke them in any way?
Why instead did the WEC spend more than a year doing everything it could to ignore the Wisconsin statutes and instead issue orders in direct opposition to them?
The WEC was legally required to remove 234,000 names from the state’s voter rolls so that they couldn’t be used to commit fraud. The WEC refused and was even held in contempt of court for doing so.
The WEC ignored the clear letter of state law in denying both Kanye West and the Green Party access to the ballot so that they would not take votes away from Biden.
The WEC looked the other way when the City of Madison held illegal ballot harvesting operations in city parks and coordinated with the Biden campaign in promoting them. As soon as those events were over, City of Madison clerk Mitzi
The WEC instructed municipal clerks to ignore state law and illegally fill out mail-in ballot witness addresses instead of returning them to voters to correct as the law requires them to.
All of these decisions violated the clear letter and intent of state law and all were obviously designed to influence the outcome of last month’s election.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are here not to challenge the results of that election or any election, but to challenge the systematic erosion of the Rule of Law. Without that, and without elections that exist within its framework, we have nothing—not a state, not a country, and not even our most sacred individual right; the right to change our government with our vote.
Here in Wisconsin, we take that right very seriously. We are the birthplace of both the Republican Party and the Progressive Movement. We are here now to ensure that that legacy is upheld and can endure.
We are here because we care about the most vulnerable among us and won’t sit idly by while their votes are stolen from them. We are here because we won’t tolerate the Rule of Law to be ignored, subverted, and trampled on.
We are here because this should concern all of us—Republicans, Democrats, Wisconsinites, Americans—alike. We are here because these issues are far bigger than any one election, any one party, or any one of us.
And we are here because we all know it. Thank you.