Wisconsin GOP caught in potentially fraudulent calls to Trump backers in Pennsylvania

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    Republican Party operatives and a local Kenosha GOP group called “Kenosha for Trump” have been caught at activities that appear to a variety of election officials to be potentially fraudulent. 

    Correspondence shared with The Daily Beast and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows Wisconsin Republicans urging backers to contact Donald Trump supporters in Pennsylvania to get them to turn in absentee ballots — it appears days after the election — although the language is subtle.

    This plea was emailed out just hours before President Donald Trump went on national television Thursday to declare the inherent illegitimacy of ballots received after Nov. 3,” the Daily Beast reported. “The request, election lawyers say, appears to flagrantly run afoul of state law.”

    Pennsylvania law, which was upheld by a recent state Supreme Court decision, states that mailed ballots are valid if they are received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6 and postmarked by Nov. 3.

    “Any Trump supporter who sends in their ballots either Thursday or Friday would not have it postmarked within the acceptable deadline—creating the precise situation that the president himself has deemed fraudulent and corrupt,” the report added.

    The Journal Sentinel posted a copy of the email showing a from address of “Kenosha for Trump” and a sent time of 5:19 p.m. on Thursday. 

    “Trump Victory urgently needs volunteers to make phone calls to Pennsylvania Trump supporters to return their absentee ballots. These phone calls will help President Trump win the election!” it reads. It also lists two Republican Party of Wisconsin field directors who volunteers are supposed to contact to get involved,” the email read.

    The Trump campaign’s Wisconsin spokesperson, Anna Kelly, released the following statement on the email after the articles were published: “The e-mail in question was sent by an unaffiliated local group and any related social media posts have been taken down. She told the Racine Journal Times, additionally, that, “Trump Victory continues to fight for election integrity at every level as we ensure that every legal vote for President Trump and other Republicans is counted fairly and accurately as required by law.” 

    Elections attorney Jeff Mandell, of the newly formed Law Forward firm, stated on Twitter that, “It is breathtakingly cynical for @WisGOP, which sued to prevent Wisconsinites voting absentee to have their ballots counted if postmarked by 11/3, to now be meddling in PA, urging voters to defy a court order by deliberately voting after Election Day.” Separately, he added, “I’m not sure what that might mean as matter of Pennsylvania election law, but, if it constitutes voter fraud under state law, this conduct could also violate federal criminal laws against using interstate telecommunications to commit fraud.”

    The two news accounts both quote legal scholars in election law who reacted negatively to the email but with varying degrees of condemnation. The most generous reaction was that it was based on a misunderstanding of Pennsylvania law; another interpretation cited a potential basis for a criminal investigation under federal law.

    Regardless of legality, the hypocrisy was clear.

    “This seems like encouraging people to improperly submit ballots that should not be counted,” Jonathan Diaz, the legal counsel for voting rights at the Campaign Legal Center, told the Daily Beast. “That would be exactly what the president and his campaign are accusing Democrats of doing.”

    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.