Spotlight on the Facts: Investigating Racine’s Mobile Voting Truck Allegations | local government

TODD ​​RICHMOND Associated Press

Two years ago, the town of Racine became the first – and only – municipality in Wisconsin to purchase a mobile voting truck.

City Clerk Tara McMenamin said she pushed for the truck because it was too difficult to install equipment at remote sites for early in-person voting. The city first used the truck for municipal elections last spring. Nobody seemed to pay attention to it.

But with a hot shopping list on the battleground state’s Aug. 9 fall primary ballot, including the GOP primaries for governor, attorney general and secretary of state, conservatives online have in recent days raised questions about the truck, asking how such an operation can be legal and accusing Democrats of using the truck to cheat.

Here’s a look at some of their claims:

CLAIM: Racine has been using several mobile voting vans since June 2021.

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FACTS: There’s only one truck, and it wasn’t used until this year. The Common Council approved funding for a truck to serve as a mobile early voting site in June 2020. The city first used it during the state’s spring primary last February, McMenamin said. .

CLAIM: The city purchased the truck using “Zuckerbucks” from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life.

FACTS: It is correct that the truck was purchased with money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, according to Racine Mayor Cory Mason’s chief of staff, Shannon Powell. The nonprofit seeks to help election officials update technology and increase civic participation and secured a $350 million donation in 2020 from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife.

Tara Coolidge, City Clerk of Racine, stands inside the City of Racine mobile voting precinct Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Racine, Wis. (Diana Panuncial/The Journal Times via AP)

Diana Panuncial

The five largest cities in Wisconsin all received CTCL grants in 2020. Racine was one of them, accepting nearly $950,000.

Some conservatives have called the CTCL grants “Zuckerbucks” and called them election bribery, saying they tilted the 2020 presidential election toward Democrat Joe Biden. But judges rejected legal challenges to the grants.

CLAIM: The truck operated as an absentee ballot box in defiance of a state Supreme Court ruling in July banning them.

FACTS: No, this is not the case. McMenamin said the truck is only used to facilitate in-person early voting in the two weeks leading up to an election, per state law. She wanted the truck because it was becoming too cumbersome for her staff to set up their equipment in remote polling stations.

The city posts notices at City Hall, online, and in the Racine Journal Times of scheduled truck stops, fulfilling a state law requirement that municipalities give public notice of hours and times. locations of the first in-person voting sites, McMenamin said. Often the trucks park outside buildings that have traditionally been used as early voting sites such as community centers, she said. Using the truck allows voting on site without interrupting functions in the building, she said.

People can walk to the truck, register to vote if they haven’t already, vote at one of the truck’s five built-in kiosks, and deliver their ballot to a city staff member who manages the vehicle, she said. The ballots are then secured in a locked container. People can deliver absentee ballots to the truck, just as they are allowed to do at physical early voting sites, but the truck does not have a slot for a drop box and is not available 24 hours a day. hours a day. like a drop box, McMenamin said.

CLAIM: The city does not allow Republican observers in the truck, allowing Democrats to cheat.

FACTS: Fake. McMenamin said state law allows observers to watch early voting in person, so observers are allowed in the truck. She said GOP observers have been in the truck since the early in-person voting window for the fall primary opened on July 26.

“It would be exactly the same as if it were in brick and mortar (early voting site),” she said. “(I would say) to people who are more skeptical of the process, it follows state law.”

If election observers believe they have been unfairly barred or expelled from an early voting site, they can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Some online blogs claimed that the Democrats were occupying the truck and throwing “fake ballots” into it. But the truck is staffed by city election officials and has the same rules as any other early voting site.

This is part of AP’s efforts to combat widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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