September 15, 2023 at 5:30 a.m.

Lakeland Times: Our View

Accountability in all elections

Those who align themselves with the Democratic Party want everyone to know that there is absolutely no election stealing going on, none at all, not on the national level, not on the state level, not on the local level.

No sir, no cheating at all, and anybody who claims otherwise is a far-right election denier.

Now we have certainly begged to differ on the state and national levels. Whether it’s voting machines mysteriously breaking down in Republican precincts in a close election in Arizona, or whether, as in Wisconsin, a rogue election administrator issues unlawful guidance (as decided by the state Supreme Court) to election clerks, allowing them to use illegal mail-in ballot drop boxes (which the Jimmy Carter task force on election integrity found would lead to voter fraud), or whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg funding local governments in Democratic areas to get out the vote, there’s a lot of election manipulation and meddling out there, so much so that we could actually make this sentence of examples a lot longer than it already is.

Most of it is being carried out by progressives and the Democratic Party, and much of it is actually fraudulent. So we have vociferously disagreed that everything is clean in state and national elections.

But, until recently, we thought local elections were by and large on the up-and-up, especially in small-town northern Wisconsin. As recently as 2020, we would have thought it virtually impossible for election-stealing antics to emerge in towns like Presque Isle.

And yet here we are.

As we have reported, Vilas County judge Martha Milanowski has ordered a new election for town chairperson in Presque Isle after a court review turned up at least seven questionable ballots and two that were cast illegally beyond a reasonable doubt in the last town election. Those two illegal ballots are significant given that former town clerk Lorine Walters defeated incumbent town chairman John MacLean by one vote.

All this comes after several years of turmoil in the town. As The Lakeland Times has also reported, a controversy has erupted over the use of Walters’s son Jim of town computers off-site at his Michigan-based tech company for the last 20 years, prompting some town officials to launch investigations to see if any criminal statutes were broken.

Then, too, the town has been swept up in environmental politics. A progressive group, the Last Wilderness Alliance, has become fervently active in town board politics, for example, opposing the board’s 2-1 vote in 2021 to open town roads to ATVs.

The group has also blamed MacLean for shelving a Hazardous Wake Ordinance, which they say was needed to protect the “pristine lakes and rivers of Presque Isle,” and in 2021 the Alliance’s president at the time declared that the group “will also look to an ultimate reversal of these actions at the ballot box,” as posted on the group’s facebook page.

Fast forward to the election and we have no lack of issues, a one-vote margin, and election fraud.

It’s a pattern all across America — polarized communities, close elections, and election fraud — and we can no longer say that the Northwoods can avoid it. Presque Isle is a testament to that for several reasons. 

First off, the two illegal ballots should never have been counted. Jane Alt reportedly lives only part-time in Presque Isle and is registered in Illinois, not Wisconsin, while Robert Von Holdt’s ballot contained irregularities, specifically, judge Milanowski found, the procedure in mailing his ballot was not followed correctly under the state’s election laws.

As the town clerk at the time, Ms. Walters was responsible for supervising that election. It was her job under state law to “report suspected election frauds, irregularities, or violations of which the clerk has knowledge to the district attorney for the county where the suspected activity occurs and to the commission.”

Despite mandatory training, however, not only did the two ballots get counted in the election, they also were counted during the official canvass to certify the election. How is it that an unregistered voter can get by election officials and cast a ballot? How was this not discovered during the canvass? Same question for Von Holdt’s ballot. How could the town clerk not discover that statutory procedures were not followed for mailing in the ballot?

Speaking of the district attorney, have town officials reported the illegal voters to Vilas County district attorney Karl Hayes, an appointee of Gov. Tony Evers? If not, why not?

And is the district attorney going to do his job and actually prosecute election fraud? In the case of Van Holdt, it’s conceivable that not following proper mail-in procedures was an honest mistake requiring only ballot invalidation, but the case against the woman who was registered in Illinois and not in Wisconsin but who voted in Presque Isle anyway seems clear cut.

The bottom line, somebody needs to be charged with a felony in this matter, and, if that doesn’t happen, it tells us that Mr. Hayes does not care about election integrity. By his action or non-action, he will telegraph his message to all the voters of the county. 

They should take note.

Simply put, election fraud is a serious offense, and, when it is uncovered, it needs to be charged. Such crimes are prosecuted all the time in Wisconsin. To cite just one example, just a year ago, the state Department of Justice charged a Union Grove man with election fraud in connection with his requesting absentee ballots for two other individuals.

And some years ago, a local Lakeland area man was charged with a felony after voting twice in an election in different towns.

We have a chargeable crime here, and it needs to be charged. If people who vote illegally are not held accountable, then fraudsters will be emboldened and elections increasingly violated. People will not trust at all that the system is not rigged.

We know the system is rigged, from top and — apparently — to bottom. We have the national Democratic Party trying to put Trump in jail to keep him off the ballot. That same party has made rules changes and appointed so many superdelegates and automatic delegates that any challenger to Joe Biden would have to win 80 percent of the primary vote to beat the president for the nomination.

As Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said this week, the Democratic primary is rigged.

And in Wisconsin, we have a rogue state election commission staff that has advised local clerks that it is quite all right to break elections laws.

Now none of this is to say that the vast majority of local election clerks aren’t honest. They are, and they do yeoman’s work in administering elections, even if sometimes mistakes are made. Indeed, we think their honesty is the most important reason our elections are as legitimate as they are, and they form a firewall against the corruption that festers in the elite above them.

But they can only do so if there is accountability — and serious accountability — when local officials do wrong, and when voters act illegally to try and impact an election.

Without accountability, what is going on in Presque Isle will only grow and spread. Even in this election, the violations were likely caught only because it was a close election, making it even more imperative that lawbreakers are punished.

We are somewhat concerned about judge Milanowski’s ruling to order a new election, rather than throwing out the illegal ballots, but we also know there would be issues of voting privacy involved by doing the latter, and the challenger seems happy with a new election. It does leave those who voted legally in the last election somewhat disenfranchised, their civic duty compromised by a few.

Still, in this case, election integrity is prevailing, if narrowly, over election fraud, so long as people are held accountable at the end of the day.

In the meantime, everybody needs to realize that there is a whole lot of election fraud going on — on the national level, on the state level, and, sad to say, on the local level.

Anybody who claims there’s not is election fraud denier in an age when the fraud is too obvious to ignore.


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