When Charles Shultz received an absentee ballot application form in the mail on Thursday, July 28, it didn't take long before he found something fishy with it.
The mailer, sent by conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity (AFP) to his North Hudson home, included directions to mail the application to Madison instead of his village clerk.
"It seems to me like it was an effort by this organization to delay the process or make the process more complicated," Shultz said. "And, of course the date of when it should be returned was wrong."
That set off red flags for Shultz.
The AFP mailer clearly states that he should return the absentee ballot application by Aug. 11, but the 10th Senate District recall election between challenger Shelly Moore (D) and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R) takes place on Aug. 9.
On Saturday, after consulting with We Are Wisconsin workers based in Hudson and St. Croix County Clerk Cindy Campbell, Shultz officially filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB).
Shultz wrote the following on the complaint form:
I received an absentee ballot request form from Americans For Prosperity. It intentionally listed to return up to Aug. 11. The date of the election is Aug. 9. If I followed their instructions, my ballot would not be legal. I think they purposely intended to discount my vote. I understand such activity to be against the law. I believe I was targeted by this group because I am a Democrat and a senior citizen.
"It is interesting to me that I would receive it from the Republican organization, because I'm a Democrat," Shultz said.
Matt Seaholm, director of the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, could not immediately be reached by Hudson Patch for comment. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Seaholm said 'no (mailing) list is perfect,' and he blamed the error on a typo.
"I have no way of knowing what's inside people's intentions, but you would think if there's anything you would proofread, it would be the date that you return it," Shultz said.
Hannah Ledford, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Democratic Party based in Hudson, said "this is voter suppression," and that Harsdorf, not Seaholm, is responsible for putting a stop to it.
"Sheila Harsdorf and her radical special interest friends are trying to lie, cheat, and steal their way to victory in this election because they know that voters are rejecting Senator Harsdorf's radical agenda—an agenda that raises taxes on the middle class and seniors while giving tax breaks to corporations. Senator Harsdorf must immediately put a stop to this cynical scheme to suppress voter participation in these recall elections."
The AFP mailer with the incorrect date was spotted in at least one other district with an Aug. 9 recall election.
The statewide confusion brought on by this mailer, and others, has prompted the GAB to issue a statement about unofficial absentee ballot applications. In the statement, Kevin Kennedy, Wisconsin’s chief election officer, said, “If you need or want to vote absentee, contact your municipal clerk directly and request a ballot."
Harsdorf campaign spokesperson Nathan Duerkop was contacted for this story, but declined to comment.