UPDATE: Kim Plache responds below. And Janice Johnson-Martin corrects the record
There's a delicious rumor making the rounds today that says Kim Plache will be disqualified from running for mayor because she voted illegally in the Feb. 17 election.
Well, consider it debunked. Urban myth, not gonna happen. That's the word from City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin, who should know, since it is she who would have to declare the disqualification. Those other ten mayoral candidates will have to beat the former state senator at the ballot box, not in the Clerk's office.
Here's what actually happened, as Johnson-Martin describes it. You remember the Feb. 17 election? That's the one in which five statewide candidates vied for State Superintendent of Schools, and five local candidates competed for Racine's 1st District aldermanic seat. Turnout was in the single-digits, yawn.
Anyway, Kim Plache hied herself down to Festival Hall to vote, bearing a lease for her new Eighth Street apartment to prove residence in the district. The lease was dated Feb. 13; the election inspectors took a look at it, noted that the address is within that district and gave Plache a ballot.
Which she took into the booth, marked with her choices, and inserted into the vote-counting machine.
Ooops! At some point after that, everything hit the fan. The rule is you need to live in the district for 10 days before being qualified as a resident allowed to vote there. By the time the election officials realized that Plache's lease was six days' short, "she had already put her ballot in the machine," said Johnson-Martin.
The city clerk was called down to Festival Hall to decide what to do.
"I told the election inspectors they had to mark down on their inspectors' statement that the lease hadn't been correctly considered."
And this is where procedures get interesting. Johnson-Martin said there is just one thing that can be done in this situation: a ballot has to be removed from the voting machine, and its votes "minused" from the count. "Two election officials had to pull out one ballot... they took off its votes, and noted it on their inspectors' statement.
"And Kim was not given credit for voting."
I know what you're thinking: "What if that was my ballot they pulled out of the voting machine, and not Plache's?" Well, look at the 1st District election totals; they weren't even close. One vote, or 10, or even 30 wouldn't have made any difference.
(Update, 3/17: Johnson-Martin called me today to correct the record. "I gave you incorrect information yesterday. I talked to my inspectors today, and they said, 'We did not pull out a ballot; there were no minuses. You just told us to log it on our inspector's statement.' ")
There's one further way Plache could be disqualified from becoming mayor from this incident, according to word I got from the Government Accountability Board: If she were convicted of a felony for voting in the wrong district. "That would be a District Attorney question," said the official I spoke to. "But let's say they decide to prosecute... it won't happen before the election."
We called Racine County District Attorney Mike Nieskes and read him the gist of our story. Mike said, "Ethical obligations require that I state the matter has not been referred to the District Attorney's office. The responsible determination is for me to look into the situation to determine if any of the election laws have been violated. And that's what I'll do." He said he will call Johnson-Martin and review the matter.
Nieskes added that an individual is only prohibited from holding office if he or she is not a legal voter or has a felony conviction. "I don't know whether this would be (a felony) or not; I'm not going to speculate at this point."
Efforts to reach Plache were unsuccessful... until about 6:45 p.m.:
Kim Plache said she knew nothing about her vote being disqualified until shortly after 5 p.m. today, when Johnson-Martin told her what happened after she left the polling place on Feb. 17.
"Janice Johnson-Martin told me this today after the session at City Hall for mayoral candidates," Plache said. "She told me they discovered that I shouldn't have voted there after I had left the polling place. I'd voted just before the polls closed." Plache had no idea what transpired after that discovery was made, but said her vote disqualification and the voiding of a ballot from the voting machine was the correct response.
"Normally when this this sort of thing happens, they don't even know who the person was. It could have been Jane Doe; they wouldn't normally contact the person," she said.
Plache said she has a perfect voting record. "I never miss an election. All I did was go in good faith to vote. I presented my lease information and said, 'Can I vote?' and they gave me a ballot. If the poll worker had said, 'You can't vote here,' I would have gone to my previous polling place" (in Mount Pleasant). Plache said she had moved into the apartment on Eighth Street in Racine on Feb. 13 or 14.