Defeated Sheriff Candidate Objects to Decisive Student Votes

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A candidate for sheriff of Wisconsin’s La Crosse County is blaming his loss in the Nov. 8 election on student voters who are not permanent county residents, WEAU News reported.

After losing to Democrat John Siegel by fewer than 200 votes, Republican Fritz Leinfelder called for a recount, which Wisconsin law allows in any case where the outcome is dependent on a margin of victory of 1 percent or less. The initial results were upheld in the recount, but Leinfelder filed another objection, this time claiming that 1,215 votes should be discounted because they weren’t cast by “permanent residents” of La Crosse County.

On the list of voters Leinfelder provided to the La Crosse County clerk in his objection, all but 26 were registered for classes at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse this fall; the other 26 listed a UW La Crosse residence hall as their home address. Most of the student voters’ permanent addresses were in another county in Wisconsin, and 122 had permanent addresses outside the state, WEAU News reported.

According to the affidavit outlining his objection, Leinfelder argued that the voters’ addresses don’t meet the legal requirements for residency and that the purpose of college housing isn’t to establish “permanent residency.”

“I don’t believe that somebody that’s a temporary resident of La Crosse, that’s only connected by the school, should have the right here to vote in our local elections,” he said.

County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer responded to Leinfelder’s objection by saying that it should have been filed on Election Day, not after a recount, and that Wisconsin law makes explicit provisions for student voters, allowing them to vote in state elections as long as they have resided in a ward for at least 28 days.

“State law acknowledges that college students may move frequently, and provides special exceptions for them,” Dankmeyer wrote. “Student status shall not be a consideration in determining residence for the purpose of establishing voter eligibility.”

Less than a day after filing the objection, Leinfelder conceded the race, saying that while he stands by his objection, he would not go through with a lawsuit.