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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board Again Refuses Discussion On Dominion Voting Machine Concerns

Issue Date: August 5, 2021

During time for public comment at Marinette County Board meetings on May 25, June 29, and again on Tuesday, July 27, Tom Oldenburg, chairman of the United Constitutionalists of Marinette County and a businessman in the Amberg/Athelstane area, asked unsuccessfully for a mutual question and answer conversation with County Board on security concerns he and members of his group have with the Dominion voting machines purchased this year for all Marinette County polling places.

While the 2-way discussion Oldenburg sought did not take place, County Clerk Kathy Brandt provided an explanation of factors that had gone into the decision to purchase the Dominion model machines, which was made with input from municipal clerks throughout the county, and explained security measures that can be used before, during and after voting.

Distrust of Dominion voting machines has been much discussed nationwide on social and regular news media, and some court challenges of the election outcomes still remain unsettled. There have been allegations of fraudulent vote counts, offset by assurances that sufficient protections can be put in place to prevent tampering with election outcomes.

At the County Board meeting on June 29, Oldenburg had repeated his request to discuss the concerns with County Board. After some discussion that included input from Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, County Administrator John LeFebvre, County Board Chair John Guarisco, and others, Oldenburg had been told the conversation he wanted should be held with a committee. After the meeting Guarisco said he, LeFebvre and Mattison had agreed that discussion could be placed on the agenda for the next Administrative Committee meeting, which was scheduled for Thursday, July 15.

However, that did not happen, and Oldenburg was back at the County Board meeting on July 27 with a group of supporters, seven of whom had also registered to speak. Public comment speakers are limited to five minutes each, but can donate their time to another speaker. Eventually Oldenburg spoke for nearly half an hour, but not until after County Board itself had a long discussion before rejecting his request for a public question and answer exchange.

â€Trust in government is at an all time low,†Oldenburg declared at the start of his initial comments, adding that the mistrust extended from local and county levels all the way up to state and national levels. He referred several times to allegations of ballot count tampering.

â€I've been attempting to address this board and get feedback with interaction, so you can ask questions of me, and I can ask questions of you,†Oldenburg told the board.

He asked if any of the 24 supervisors present was willing to make the necessary motion to suspend the rules and allow the exchange he had repeatedly asked for.

Supervisor Mike Behnke of Peshtigo made the motion Oldenburg requested, and received a second from Supervisor Shirley Kaufman of Marinette.

There was a long discussion before that motion came to a vote, and it was defeated by a margin of six in favor to 18 against. By County Board rules, approval by a 2/3 majority vote is required.

The six voting in favor were supervisors Ginger Deschane, Tricia Grebin, Tom Mailand, Behnke, Kaufman and Guarisco. Opposing votes were cast by supervisors Roger Allen, Clancy Whiting, Bill Stankevich, George Kloppenburg, Bonnie Popp, Bob Hoyer, Penny Chaikowski,

Stan Gruszynski, Robert Holley,Tom Buelteman, Glenn Broderick, Tom Mandli, Ken Keller, Gail Wanek, Paul Gustafson, Ted Sauve, Rick Polzin and Al Mans. The District 21 seat is vacant due to the resignation of Karl Yeager. Supervisors Chris Gromala, Don Pazynski, Al Sauld, Jillian Schutte, and Connie Seefeldt were absent when the vote was taken.

Starting off the discussion that preceded the vote, Gruszynski said he appreciated what Oldenburg was asking, but said if they grant the rule suspension for Oldenburg, others could come in and demand the same be done for them. â€There's a process we need to follow,†he declared. He suggested that instead Oldenburg's group should schedule a meeting in a public setting and invite all the supervisors and other county officials as well as the general public, and pledged if this is done, â€I for one will be there.â€

Guarisco said Oldenburg had been trying for months to get on the County Board agenda and was told he had to go through the Administrative Committee, â€but they wouldn't allow it, so he wasn't on that agenda.â€

Polzin asked for an explanation of the role County Board plays in elections and selection of voting machines.

Brandt explained as County Clerk, she is the chief election official in the county. â€We provide the tools and rules for the elections,†Brandt said.

She had investigated numerous types and manufacturers and had demonstrations of several voting machines before recommending purchase of the Dominion model selected and contracting with Command Central. She had invited other municipal clerks to the demonstration sessions, and they agreed with the choice, Brandt said.

Formerly each municipality in the county selected and purchased its own voting machines and was responsible for maintenance.

The decision was made in 2020 to save money for everyone by paying for the needed new machines with county Routes to Recovery money plus unused Routes to Recovery funds from the various municipalities. The municipal contributions totaled $73,200. By Wisconsin Department of Administration rules the county and the municipalities had to spend the Routes to Recovery money prior to Dec. 6, 2020 or return it to the state. Money from a Center for Civic Life Grant funded by a donation from Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg was also used.

Marinette County purchased 26 of the Dominion machines, one for each of the 25 voting districts and two for one of them. The City of Marinette already had two of it own. After considerable discussion in December, County Board agreed to allocate $212,758.00 in 2020 contingency funding if necessary to cover any gap between the Routes to Recovery Funds received and the cost of the voting machines and approved entering into an agreement with Command Central and Dominion for the purchase, delivery, set up and training on use of the machines.

Eventually, thanks to the contributions from the municipalities and use of the county's own Routes to Recovery money and other outside funding sources, the voting machine contract was financed with no need to use the contingency funds and no impact on local property taxes.

Brandt said she and the municipal clerks have absolutely no authority to change the software on the voting machines, and it is illegal to tamper with them. They are not on line.

â€We document everything,†she declared, and added there are seals on the machines, and the election inspectors watch as voters drop in their ballots. The machine makes a copy of each ballot for tabulating purposes, and the original ballot drops into a container where they are kept in case a recount is needed.

Gruszynski asked if there were any malfunctions with the machines.

Brandt said they have been used since 2015 in 29 Wisconsin counties. If an audit of ballots is needed they can be hand counted. â€There haven't been any problems that haven't been able to be explained,†Brandt added.

â€This boardâ€What is our responsibility with the way the elections are performed?†Whiting asked, and declared, â€I'm sick of hearing about this! I'm tired of it!â€

â€We want a guarantee there's no outside way the results can be changed,†Kaufman said. â€Is there any way that vote can be changed by the machine?â€

Brandt explained these machines only scan and count the pre-printed ballots that are marked by the voter. The printer does not work, unless a blind person needs assistance, in which case it can be put temporarily in a disability mode.

Kaufman said she prefers paper ballots when she votes.

Brandt said the technology used in the Dominion machines has been used in the City of Marinette and the Town of Peshtigo since 1988.

In reference to Whiting's comments, Popp reminded him that last fall County Board approved purchase of these machines.

LeFebvre took over the explanation. He said it is not the county's responsibility, but Brandt had suggested to him that if the county and the municipalities would work together they could get a much better price on the machines that were needed. So last fall they had included $236,000 of county funds in the 2021 budget to buy the voting machines.

Now, he said, â€We have 29 machines in this countyâ€all the same make and model, and a company representative on site, in the county, when work on them is needed.

LeFebvre said later they found that the machines could be purchased with CARES (Routes to Recovery) funds. The communities turned over their unused CARES funds and the county got some grants, and the machines were purchased without impact on local funds.

Brandt said another advantage for her is that she can now have one training session for all the municipal clerks, since they all are using the same voting machines.

LeFebvre said County Board has no authority whatsoever now in regard to the machines, â€â€ no authority to touch those machines, modify them or tell the municipalities how to operate them.â€

Sauve wanted the discussion sought by Oldenburg to go to a committee. LeFebvre said he had a discussion with Mr. Oldenburg, and told him the County has no authority. He said Rick Polzin, who chairs the Administrative Committee, had refused to put it on the agenda. The only other person who could have it put on the County Board agenda would be Guarisco, â€and he isn't going to do it,†LeFebvre said.

Behnke said the other way to get it on the County Board agenda would be with a petition signed by a majority of County Board members.

Mailand asked if time for the discussion, if approved, would be limited to Oldenburg's allotted 5 minutes of public comment. Guarisco said it would, but six others in the audience had offered to give him their allotted 5 minutes each, so it could total 35 minutes.

Vote was then called on Behnke's motion to waive the rules and allow the question and answer exchange, and it failed with only the six supervisors voting in favor.

Oldenburg then began his allocated time for public comment. He said they could say Marinette County has nothing to say , but on Oct. 27 they had authorized spending $212,758 of county funds for the machines â€before you knew Routes to Recovery would cover it.â€

Oldenburg said he had talked with Brandt about the process, ad was told in 2018 she started the process for getting machines, knowing the existing ones would be obsolete. She had met with municipal clerks numerous times in the selection process.

However, Oldenburg said, the first time he saw anything about buying the dominion machines was on Oct. 27, 2020, without advance notice or chance for public comment.

â€Where are these machines made?†Oldenburg asked. He understood they are all Chinese parts, from the screen interface to the chip load, and then are assembled in Colorado. He said even though the county purchased them, â€These machines don't belong to usâ€they belong to Dominion, and only Dominion can go in and look at them.†He said what the county has is not ownership of the machines, it's a lease, â€â€and now we have a third party - Dominion, operating and owning our machines.†He explained their inner workings are proprietary, and neither the county nor the municipalities can allow any one else to fix problems with them.

â€The county purchased these machines, so you guys are right in the middle of it, whether you want to be or not!†Oldenburg declared.

He said Brandt is right, and absentee ballots can be scanned throughâ€â€But in the last election, hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots were thrown out.â€

â€Actions by this board are one of the reasons faith in government in this country is slipping,†Oldenburg declared. â€We shouldn't have to jump through hoops to get into an interactive conversation with our elected officials!â€

He said in 2017 Kamala Harris said she did not want these Dominion machines. She had gone to a demonstration and they hacked it right in front of her. â€It's not just me, it's not just Republicans who are concerned about these machines,†he went on, and said they had seen it on film that mail-in ballots were scanned in more than once, and once, on live TV, they had seen this type of machine hooked up to the Internet.

He compared County Board's refusal to have a two way conversation to censorship on so many Internet sites now, and said now they are not even allowed to talk about their voter concerns on the web.

Oldenburg said two weeks ago Germany announced they are going to all paper ballots for their next election, because they do not trust any of the voting machines. They are all made in China, he said, and then asked, â€Does anybody trust China?â€

He suggested with probably a maximum of 23,000 voters Marinette County could and should go to all paper ballots, hand counted. â€We need to be assured when we vote, our vote gets counted for the person we intended.

As to doing a forensic audit on the Dominion machines, Oldenburg said Dominion will not give access, and there are ways the vote count can be inside the machines.

He said when his son voted in Oklahoma he tried three times to vote against Obama, but he was watching his ballot copy, and all three times if he had pushed â€OK†the vote would have been counted for Obama. He had contacted the state elections board but heard nothing from them.

He said in Arizona 74,000 ballots being mailed in without any record of them ever being sent out, and in Maricopa County there were 37,000 attempts to get into the Dominion machines.

He suggested the county should go ahead and secure those machines, and then â€throw them right outâ€they didn't cost the taxpayers anything!â€

He urged County Board to improve communications with the public, to get the trust back.

He spoke more about the dangers of censorship, in which they can't even talk any more about election fraud, and declared, â€This is our country we're talking about. We've got to take a stand, and that stand can start right here!â€

Before concluding, Oldenburg said he thinks Brandt does an outstanding job as County Clerk, and he has voted for her every time she came up for re-election.

In other matters at County Board, LeFebvre mentioned that August is Child Support Awareness Month, and thanked Mattison and Child Support Director Brian Barrette for the excellent job they do for the county.

LeFebvre said the 980 Sex Offender Committee met in early June and reported to the State Department of Health Services that only one vendor had come forward with an offer to lease them a home for the offender who is scheduled for release. DHS will put the proposed release plan to the courts for a decision on accepting it, and the court will decide if it is to become a home for the offender. LeFebvre added the supervisor from the affected district knows of the proposed location, and the town board there is aware that there could be a placement in their community. Since no Marinette County assets are involved, the decision now is between the state of Wisconsin DHS, the court and the vendor. DHS has asked for an extension to put their release plan together, and the court has granted it for 30 days. He expected the county will know nothing more until mid August.


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