Wisconsin Badgers Campaign with Last-Minute Changes

November 20, 2020

Contesting an election is no easy feat--especially when state Democrats are changing the rules as they go along! In Wisconsin, where President Trump trails Joe Biden by 20,608 votes (0.6 of a point), it made sense to pay the money and ask for a recount. After all, the race is close, and the Badger State has had its share of irregularities. But what if the biggest irregularity is how the election commission is acting?

Imagine an NFL team challenging a play, and then, while the referee is under the hood, he decides to change the rulebook first? That's what the president is facing in Wisconsin--only worse, former GOP state chairman Reince Preibus says. His campaign had to fork over three million dollars, thinking they had a chance of success based on how the procedures were written. Then, the Wisconsin Election Commission decides, "Oh, let's change the rules," making everyone on the Trump team wonder if the money was even worth it!

"It's pretty wild," Reince said on "Washington Watch" Thursday. The former chief of staff to President Trump knows the state well and has been shocked at how difficult Wisconsin is making this on the campaign. Of course, he said, "Wisconsin has a long history of problems," dating back to 2004 when the Milwaukee Police Department issued a 70-page report about all kinds of suspicious activity--like felons voting, dead people voting, registered voters at addresses that were empty lots or vacant buildings. A lot of it, Reince pointed out, "wasn't so much flat-out cheating by people." It was more a problem of "systematic failures." And no one has been forced to look at some these questions until now.

But is there enough to change the outcome of the state? Preibus thinks so. "Now I'm not representing the campaign," he was quick to say. "I'm not on the ground. But I do understand the complaint. Wisconsin has never adopted the laws that it needs to become an early vote state. So we are not an early voting state. But what's happened over the years is that the clerks and the Wisconsin Election Commission have allowed what's called 'in-person absentee ballot voting'" to get around the rules. "And so what you have in the state of Wisconsin are thousands and thousands of people that are potentially going into these precincts, voting early or absentee ballot without actually filling out an absentee ballot request form." It's a rogue operation, he warned, outside the confines of the law. "Well, it's not legal. It's not what the state allows."

That's one thing. The second thing is that the Wisconsin Election Commission has told clerks that they can "fix" certain absentee ballots that came in without addresses. "And so you have clerks repairing and fixing ballots to make them legal for people that were using the absentee ballot system, which, by the way, isn't appropriate under the law." Then there's the run-around on the voter ID law, which has helped thousands of people vote without confirming their identity. All of these issues leave the system open to manipulation.

Whether or not Trump will benefit from the recount he's just gotten in two counties, we don't know. But one of the positive outcomes of this challenge--and so many others--is that it's forcing people to clean up our voting systems in some of these states who've been lax in enforcing the rules. Americans need to have confidence in our system.

"That's one of the things that I think is also motivating folks in the Republican Party to get involved. And it's really to do exactly as you say once and for all. We've got the resources to go into a state like Wisconsin and say, 'Okay, how are the clerks administering these absentee ballots? Why do we have folks that are confined to nursing homes? Why are those numbers three times higher this time than they were four years ago? And why are clerks filling in people's addresses and fixing absentee ballots? Why is this stuff happening? And now we get to ask the questions."

Regardless of whether Donald Trump is ultimately successful, Americans are fortunate to have in this president a leader who's willing to force the issue--when historically, Republicans haven't had the backbone to stand up and ask these questions on a national level. In the end, if our votes are legally counted, every voter wins.