Bogus ballot requests latest issue in Wisconsin elections
MADISON, Wis. — Harry Wait was so determined to show Wisconsin’s election system is vulnerable to fraud that he logged onto the state website, requested an absentee ballot in the state Assembly speaker’s name and had it delivered to himself. Then he ran to a sheriff to tell him that he had committed fraud.
Now Wait faces the possibility of criminal charges in a strange new chapter in a chaotic, seemingly endless fight over election administration in the key battleground state.
The fight began after Joe Biden won the state in 2020, defeating former President Donald Trump by nearly 21,000 votes. Trump has refused to accept the loss, insisting the election was marred by fraud. Multiple reviews and court decisions have upheld Biden’s victory, but Trump’s supporters have spent the months since promoting his baseless claims that Biden somehow stole the election.
Republican state Rep. Tim Ramthun has centered his gubernatorial campaign around decertifying Biden’s win in the state. GOP legislators passed sweeping election law changes earlier this year only to see Democratic Gov. Tony Evers veto the package. The conservative-controlled state Supreme Court in July outlawed absentee ballot drop boxes.
And under pressure from Trump, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos launched an investigation into voter fraud last summer that has cost taxpayers more than $1 million but turned up nothing.
He’s the president of the Racine-based group HOT Government, which has alleged fraud in the 2020 election. He told The Associated Press that he visited the state’s election website and ordered what he says were 10 absentee ballots in the names of other people, including Vos and Racine Mayor Cory Mason, and had them delivered to his own address.
He quickly contacted Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling and told him all about it, saying he had proven the state’s system is vulnerable to fraud.
Vos said what Wait did amounts to voter fraud.
“His actions are sad,” Vos said. “If election integrity means anything, it means we all have to follow the law — Republicans and Democrats alike.”
The state Election Commission, made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, held an emergency meeting Thursday night to address Wait’s activities.
Administrator Meagan Wolfe told commissioners that the website is no more vulnerable to fraud than a traditional mail request for an absentee ballot. She also stressed that the state’s voter registration database would flag anyone who tried to vote using another person’s absentee ballot. The commissioners voted to discuss referring charges to prosecutors at a future meeting, perhaps as early as next week.
“People who think it’s cute to commit a crime to undermine elections, that needs to be stopped and it needs to be stopped now,” Democratic commissioner Ann Jacobs said during the meeting.