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Daniel Kelly endorsed by sheriff who refused to investigate conservative voter fraud

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling is part of the right-wing Constitutional Sheriffs movement, which urges local police to ignore federal and state authorities.

By Emily Singer - March 31, 2023
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Christopher Schmaling
Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete, right, listens as Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling talks about the arrest of James P. Eaton, 36, of Palatine, Ill., for the 1997 homicide of Amber Gail Creek, 14, during a press conference Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at the Racine County Sheriff's Substation in Ives Grove, Wis. (AP Photo/The Journal Times, Gregory Shaver)

Daniel Kelly, the conservative nominee for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, announced on Tuesday he had been endorsed by “a majority of Wisconsin sheriffs,” who he said know “what it means to uphold the Rule of Law.”

One of Kelly’s endorsers is Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling, a right-wing supporter of former President Donald Trump who once refused to investigate or charge a conservative activist who told him directly that he’d committed voter fraud.

Harry Wait, the head of the group H.O.T. Government — the name stands for Honest, Open and Transparent — said he reached out to Schmaling to tell him he had fraudulently requested absentee ballots for prominent Wisconsin elected officials. Wait told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he committed voter fraud to prove vulnerabilities in the use of absentee ballots.

“Basically, I committed a crime when I ordered them,” Wait told the Journal Sentinel. “I emailed Sheriff Schmaling, asked if he was going to arrest me and he said ‘hell no.”’

Even Republicans said Wait should be charged for his actions.

“His actions are sad,” state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, one of the officials Wait fraudulently requested absentee ballots for, said in a statement. “If election integrity means anything, it means we all have to follow the law — Republicans and Democrats alike.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice later charged Wait with two counts of election fraud and two counts of unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identifying information. Wait pleaded not guilty to the charges in October 2022.

While Schmaling refused to charge Wait, he has sought to pursue others for what he said were election violations.

In November 2021, Schmaling recommended charges against five members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, accusing them of committing felonies when they told clerks to send unsolicited absentee ballots to nursing home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commissioners were never charged, and state Attorney General Josh Kaul accused Schmaling of abuse of authority in recommending charges.

Schmaling is a member of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a right-wing policing movement that encourages local police to ignore state and federal laws they do not agree with.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group believes that county sheriffs are the “ultimate law enforcement authority” and urges them to refuse to enforce federal gun laws and COVID-19 policies, for example, that they believe violate the U.S. Constitution. The group’s founder, Richard Mack, was until 2015 a member of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing anti-government militia group that later played a role in the insurrection by supporters of Trump at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Schmaling refused to enforce Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home orders in April 2020, which closed schools and created restrictions on the operations of nonessential businesses to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Kelly, for his part, is locked in a competitive race against liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz for an open seat on the state Supreme Court.

The winner of the April 4 contest will determine the ideological balance of the court.

If Kelly wins, conservatives would maintain their 4-3 majority. If Protasiewicz wins, liberals would flip control in a change that could have sweeping implications for abortion rights, redistricting, and voting rights in the state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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