Complaint filed against Lake County Clerk Helander
Lake County Clerk Willard R. Helander.
Updated: July 29, 2012 6:47AM
A voter in the June 5 Wisconsin recall election has filed a complaint with state authorities claiming she was harassed by Lake County Clerk Willard Helander at her Racine polling place.
Nicala Aiello, 55, told the Racine Journal Times this week that she was attempting to vote at Jefferson Lighthouse School, 1722 W. Sixth St., when Helander, who was apparently volunteering as an election observer, “demanded” that she remove her “Recall Walker” button.
When Aiello refused, Helander berated her, Aiello claimed, and repeatedly accused her of electioneering before walking away and convincing a poll inspector to intervene.
Attempts by the Lake County News-Sun to reach Helander for comment were unsuccessful. The veteran clerk, a Republican, told another newspaper that it was Aiello who became belligerent. Helander claimed she was in Wisconsin to observe the state’s practice of same-day registration and to see what problems might occur, citing a “Milwaukee police report that was very disturbing.”
Same-day registration, under which eligible citizens can register and vote on Election Day, has been offered in Wisconsin since 1976. It’s not clear why Helander chose the recall election to observe the practice, or why she presented herself as a volunteer at a largely minority precinct in Racine. The Racine GOP, which recruits both poll-watchers and election-observers, on Thursday filed four allegations of poll worker misconduct during the recall election, including a claim that a Jefferson Lighthouse poll worker canvassed the surrounding precinct during lunch.
Aiello filed a formal complaint with the state’s Government Accountability Board. She told the Times that she also made an informal complaint against Helander, claiming she confronted Helander in the parking lot of her polling place after witnessing her taking down the license plate number of the car belonging to Aiello’s boyfriend.
Aiello’s button was a violation of Wisconsin election law, which prohibits politically-oriented clothing or buttons in polling places. But the law also leaves enforcement up to local poll workers, who may choose not to intervene.
GAB spokesman Reid Magney declined comment on the matter, citing a confidentiality agreement. He said election-related complaints are typically turned over to the state District Attorney for investigation and potential prosecution.
Racine County was the one area in the state to hold a successful recall. Democrat John Lehman defeated Republican Senator Van Wanggaard by an 834-vote margin according to an official tally. If the vote holds, Democrats will control the Wisconsin state Senate. Wanggaard has asked for a recount, which is now under way.