GOP leaders urge Madison to cancel “Democracy in the Park” voting

Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 6:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald urged the Madison clerk’s office to cancel the “Democracy in the Park” event in a letter on their behalf Friday, calling it an “illegal collection of ballots.”

The Democracy in the Park event is set to happen the next two Saturdays in each of the city’s 206 parks. Poll workers will accept absentee ballots and can even serve as witnesses, if the voter needs one.

A letter sent by a law firm on the leaders’ behalf explained that they believe the event falls outside of a statute of Wisconsin law that describes methods for how voters can return their completed absentee ballots.

The methods mentioned in the statute say voters may return their ballots in the mail, deliver them in-person to their clerk’s office, submit them at an authorized in-person absentee-voting location or bring them to a polling center on the day of the election.

The Republican leaders’ letter also says that voters can deposit their ballot in drop-boxes that must be secure or locked at all times to protect the integrity of a ballot.

“As your office describes the campaign, your poll workers will attempt to collect absentee ballots at over 200 unsecured, outdoor locations, and only deliver these ballots to the City Clerk’s Office at the end of the six-hour campaign,” the attorney says in the letter. "The threat that this procedure poses to ballot integrity is manifestly obvious. "

The attorney requested that at a minimum, the Madison clerk’s office should keep any ballots collected separate from all other ballots the office receives.

Maribeth Witzel-Behl of the Madison clerk’s office said that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has been promoting this event, but they have not asked him to do so.

“From our perspective at the clerk’s office, we don’t care who you are casting your ballot for,” she said. “All we are striving for is to make sure that everybody in Madison who is eligible to vote is able to do so and that their ballot is going to be counted on election day.”

Witzel-Behl also explained that poll workers will have a chain of custody form where they document how many absentee ballots are being transported to the clerk’s office, including a seal number to secure them in transit.

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