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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, November 29, 2021
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City fields concerns regarding the legitimacy of 'Democracy in the Park' event

The Madison Clerk’s Office dismissed concerns from residents and legal teams alike regarding the city’s Friday “Democracy in the Park” voting event.

The event, which was created, planned and paid for by the Clerk’s Office and staffed by the same poll workers who serve on election day, made over 200 Madison parks into absentee ballot drop-off locations for a portion of the day. The event attracted controversy as some questioned its legality and integrity.

Misha Tseytlin, an attorney from a Chicago-based firm representing GOP legislators, even penned a letter to the City Clerk questioning the legality of the event. City Attorney Michael Haas published his response, urging Tseytlin to provide evidence for the allegations that the city was violating statues. 

“Your letter states that this event constitutes an ‘illegal collection of ballots’ and ‘falls outside lawful categories’ but you provide absolutely no legal support for that allegation,” Haas responded. “You simply cite statutes that outline the process for absentee voting. If you could please identify a statute that you believe is being violated, I could try to respond to your broad unsupported allegations.”

The City Attorney also addressed concerns from Attorney Tseytlin and his clients that the election officials would be biased and that the integrity of the ballots would therefore be threatened.

“As you know, both major political parties are able to nominate election officials to work at polling places. The City of Madison invited election officials nominated by both the Republican and Democratic Parties to work at Democracy in the Park, and received no complaints or concerns regarding the procedures to be used from those officials,” he wrote. 

The City Clerk also released a statement on Friday reassuring residents of the fair and unbiased nature of the ballot collection process. 

“The City Clerk’s Office is non-partisan. Regardless of who people vote for, our goal is that each eligible voter will be able to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted,” City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl stated.

Despite concerns, the city proceeded with the event, with an additional “Democracy in the Park” event being scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 3.

The Clerk’s office maintained proper procedures at the event, securing ballots with procedures equivalent to the procedures used to secure all absentee ballots. Sworn election officials retrieved the previously-issued ballots and ensured that ballots were properly witnessed, secured and sealed in absentee ballot envelopes and ballot containers with tamper-evident seals. 

All ballots received during the event will be tabulated on Election Day. 

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