No charges will be brought against two groups that were accused of election law violations in the run-up to the August recall election of Sen. Alberta Darling, according to a statement released this morning.
“It is unclear, at best, whether an offer to pay persons to gathers absentee ballot applications on a quota basis comes within the scope of the Election Bribery statute,” wrote Asst. Dist. Atty. Bruce Landgraf, the lead prosecutor on the case for Milwaukee County. “The statute as currently written does not give much guidance to those who wish to follow the dictates of the law, especially in the area of absentee voting.”
Wisconsin Right to Life gave campaign workers $25 gift cards for every 15 voters sympathetic to the anti-abortion cause that were enlisted for absentee voting. Wisconsin Jobs Now, a community and labor group, held five block parties on the northwest side of Milwaukee. They provided food, prizes and a lift to Milwaukee City Hall where voters could cast absentee ballots.
In a 14-page letter to Milwaukee County Judge Kevin Martens, Landgraf said he was influenced by the fact that both groups were acting in good faith to maximize voter participation.
“Put another way, there was no evidence that these groups were acting in bad faith or with motives suggesting any form of corruption,” he wrote.
The two groups who will not be charged for their activities in this summer’s recall elections hailed today’s announcement.
Janet Veum, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Jobs Now, said she had not seen the decision but her group stands by its summer efforts to bring out the vote.
“We were encouraging people to participate in democracy,” said Veum. “We were celebrating our right to vote and we will continue to do that.”
Barbara Lyons, executive director for Wisconsin Right to Life, said she expected her organization to be vindicated because it had done nothing wrong.