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Wisconsin Investigates Lake County Clerk

Racine County district attorney looks into activities of Willard Helander during Wisconsin recall election. State Sen. Garrett recalls earlier incidents with clerk.

A complaint filed against with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board arising from her activity during the June 5 recall election was not the first time she has been embroiled in election day controversy.

, recalls disagreements with Helander early in the veteran legislator’s career, including events that led to legislation introduced by Garrett in the Illinois General Assembly.

In the recent Wisconsin incident, an election crime complaint was filed against Helander last week under Chapter 12 of Wisconsin law, according to Reid Magney, the spokesperson for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

“When a complaint is filed under Chapter 12, I cannot comment or release a copy of the complaint,” Magney said. The Racine County district attorney will investigate the allegations and determine whether or not to bring charges, according to Magney.

A story in the Chicago Tribune indicated a Racine woman, Nicala Aiello, wore a button with the words “Recall Walker” into her polling place when Helander “started berating” her for displaying an electioneering message. Helander had a different recollection.

Aiello Becomes Belligerent

“She became belligerent,” Helander said of the encounter with Aiello. Helander knew wearing buttons into a polling place was a violation of Illinois law. “I was told it is against the law but it is not enforced,” Helander added of the Wisconsin legislation. She described what she learned from an election judge that day in Racine.

Helander went to Racine to observe same-day registration in Wisconsin since she thinks it could come to Illinois. She wanted to see how it worked and whether problems could occur.

“I read a Milwaukee police report that was very disturbing,” Helander said of Wisconsin same-day registration practices. Since similar legislation has been proposed in Illinois, Helander wanted to be prepared.

In 2002, when Garrett first was elected to the state Senate after serving two terms in the House, she recalled how she had to intercede with Helander so that her daughter, Elizabeth Garrett, could vote by absentee ballot. Elizabeth Garrett was in college at the time. Her vote did not count.

“My own daughter had a problem because she signed her name, on the absentee ballot application, E. Garrett instead of Elizabeth Garrett when it was obvious who she was. We had to introduce legislation to keep it from happening again.”

Garrett’s Law Solved Problem

Helander explained that kind of mix-up could not happen today. “Those determinations were made by both party’s election judges in the precinct,” she said. “Now we have trained people in headquarters.”

Garrett introduced the bill to change the law shortly after she became a state senator in 2003 and it passed later that year.

Both Garrett and Helander have different recollections of an incident at Neal School in North Chicago in November 2000, when Garrett was running for her second term as a state representative.

Garrett recollects a disagreement with Helander over allowing people to vote after polls closed at 7 p.m. when they were in line before closing time. Garrett recalls the lines were long because of a lack of equipment in the polling place.

Memories Vary for Helander, Garrett

Helander recollects a confrontation with Garrett that day but denies there was any shortage of equipment.

“I am deeply offended by Sen. Garrett’s accusation,” Helander said. “We assign equipment on a mathematic formula designed by our technical staff. When you bus people to a polling place there are going to be lines.”

Garrett disagreed with Helander’s recollection. “I don’t remember a bus,” Garrett said. “These are working people who live in the precinct. When working people don’t vote early, they vote between 5 and 7. There was no busing.”

What Helander remembers about that election day is a disagreement with Garrett over whether a particular voter had proper identification. “You don’t forget being body blasted by a 300-pound woman,” Helander said of her contact with the particular voter Garrett was defending. Garrett does not remember the incident.

frank June 20, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I totally agree. i've worked as an election judge in Lake County for over 9 years and I have never found Willard to be anything but professional and non-partisan. It does not suprise me that she spoke up electioneering buttons. She knows the rules and she makes sure all her officials do too..
Shelly Jaffe June 20, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Is anyone investigating Mrs. Garrett for her intimidation tactics and threats against other elected officials and Political Action Committees? I didn't think so.
Jesus June 20, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Come on it's not partisan to say the republicans and their crony capitalism have completely ruined lake county for anyone but themselves. They pay their top crook $300K while the rest of us get creamed in property taxes. It's partisan to continue pretending nothing is going on here while report after report tells us of malfesance, misbehavior and nepotism bleeding us dry. Come on this "lady" is as crooked as they come, but by all means she is not alone in this county.
marco sangria June 21, 2012 at 04:18 AM
its politics as usual and Susan garrett is a master at it. remember she calls her self an independent but listens to everything Mike Madigan tells her. Oh there was something that she didnt vote on with Mike but then again shes not running for office anymore. A wise decison for both she and Karen May.
GuitarMan June 24, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Wait let me get this right, Mr. Beeson according to your LinkedIn profile you have served as Chief of Staff for Ill. Rep. Ed Sulivan (R), and now you come to the rescue of Ms. Helander who is a long time Republic fixture here in Lake County Illinois. I would like to defend the article and flush out how loosely partisan political operative accuse others as being “partisan” We can presume that Helanders’ involvement in the Wisconsin matter is purely "educational", or as a means to gather insight on furthering the labyrinth of current voter registration challenges embraced by the Republican Party. The additional matters presented in the article are an attempt to show Helanders' attention to registration formalities, while ignoring common sense interpretation of administrative records recognized by the legislative body you give assistance to. Is it proper to claim the Patch is journalistically “partisan”, but you are not?

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