Wisconsin Public Radio

State Elections Commission Helping Investigate Racine Voter Fraud

A Racine man committed voter fraud to prove it can be done. Racine sheriff congratulated him.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Aug 4th, 2022 11:37 am
An absentee ballot. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

An absentee ballot. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has voted to assist authorities as they investigate a Racine County man who admitted he committed voter fraud in order to prove a point.

But the commission won’t formally recommend charges in the case at the moment, saying it’s not within their legal authority to take that step.

Harry Wait of Dover admitted in multiple media interviews last week that he had requested absentee ballots for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican from Rochester, and Racine Mayor Cory Mason, a Democrat. Wait said he took the step to expose flaws with the state’s MyVote Wisconsin website.

While some members of the commission said last week that Wait should be referred by the agency for criminal charges, they stopped short of that step Wednesday. Instead, they voted 6-0 to direct staff at the agency “to fully and promptly cooperate with federal, state and local law enforcement and election officials” who are investigating Wait’s actions.

“I think this is, unfortunately, the best we can do at this point in time,” said Democratic commissioner Mark Thomsen.

“We decided that at this point in time, we’re not in a position to make a criminal referral,” said Republican Don Millis, the chair of the commission. “Lacking that, the motion is to cooperate with local clerks and with law enforcement because we have information that they do not.”

Commissioners also voted 5-1 that if a complaint is made regarding the fraudulent request of absentee ballots, that it will get brought before the commission “at the earliest opportunity.” Republican commissioner Bob Spindell was the lone member of the panel to vote against that decision.

“We have a lot of complaints out there that are, in my opinion, serious,” Spindell said. “I don’t think this necessarily should be put in front of the others.”

“With all due respect, Mr. Spindell,” Thomsen shot back, “when we know that there are individuals that are attempting to fraudulently get into our system using other peoples’ names to obtain ballots … we have an absolute duty to respond to known fraud. Not fake fraud, known fraud.”

Marge Bostelmann, a Republican appointee and a former county clerk, said the investigation needs to be prioritized.

“Coming from a clerk’s perspective, I think this is really important,” Bostelmann said. “I mean, this is fraud. And I think it is very important that we make it a priority.”

While it remains unclear how Wait’s situation will unfold, the Wisconsin Department of Justice has said it has been in contact with Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson and will be investigating the matter. The DOJ said it will provide no further comment at the time.

Wait said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling congratulated him for his actions. After protesters gathered outside Schmaling’s office Tuesday, a spokesperson said the sheriff had recommended that the DOJ investigate.

Wait said he was able to request ballots for Vos and Mason by using their addresses and birthdates. Wait also reportedly requested the ballots of about 10 other friends with permission. On Tuesday, Wait said he had received five ballots back, including Mason’s.

At Wednesday’s commission meeting, Spindell suggested the agency should explore new means of verification when people request absentee ballots. That motion failed 3-3 along party lines.

Wisconsin Elections Commission will assist with investigation of fraudulent absentee ballot requests was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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