Wisconsin election board rejects Racine sheriff’s latest accusations

Racine Co. sheriff accused WEC of violating election laws
Racine Co. sheriff accused WEC of violating election laws
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 4:41 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The state election board dismissed a Wisconsin sheriff’s claim that its MyVote system for getting an absentee ballot is particularly vulnerable to election fraud, pointing out that the process for requesting one is the same as other methods and explaining the safeguards in place to prevent fraud.

“There is no indication of any vulnerability with the MyVote application. The idea that absentee ballot requests made online, via MyVote, are more susceptible to fraud is false,” the Wisconsin Election Commission wrote in a statement issued a day after the allegations were made. According the WEC statement, a person using the online service is required to provide the same information as someone making a request in person or via email.

The agency also reminded voters that voter fraud very rarely happens in Wisconsin.

The accusations came in a Facebook post on the Racine Co. Sheriff’s Office page and included a quote from Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, who claimed it was a “significant election integrity issue.” These latest allegations rekindle a clash between Schmaling, who backed former President Donald Trump in 2020, and the WEC that saw the sheriff push for criminal charges against five board members.

The post detailed two complaints made to the Sheriff’s Office from people who claimed to have fraudulently ordered absentee ballots of other Wisconsin voters.

In one case, the individual told investigators they asked someone else to request their ballot be sent to the other person’s home and it was. The other complaint came from someone who said they were able to order ballots of prominent politicians as well as other individuals because the complainant knew their birthdates. In both cases, according to the Sheriff’s Office, the persons posing as other individuals were claiming they were indefinitely confined.

In response, the WEC highlighted laws against using false information or posing as someone else to get their ballot as well as the criminal and civil penalties for violating them. The agency’s Administrator Meagan Wolfe contended that claiming a system is vulnerable because people were able to exploit through illegal means “inaccurate and irresponsible.”

“Intentionally using someone else’s identity to subvert the system does not demonstrate a flaw with MyVote, but rather a flaw with that person’s conduct,” she continued.

Completing a MyVote application does not result in a ballot automatically being sent to the person making the request, according to the WEC’s explanation of the process. When a form is completed, the system generates an email that goes to the voters’ respective municipal clerk who is tasked with deciding whether the requirements for obtaining an absentee ballot were met. One step in getting an absentee ballot includes either providing a photo ID, otherwise the clerk will check to make sure one is on file from a previous request. Wisconsin law does not require those who are listed indefinitely confined to show photo identification, the WEC noted; but state law imposes penalties for false claims.

The agency did ask anyone who is aware of someone who illegally requested a ballot to call local law enforcement or their FBI field office.

The issue of indefinitely confined voters played a significant role in the debate over the 2020 election, with arguments reaching the state supreme court. In March of that year, shortly before the primary, state justices ordered the Dane Co. election clerk to stop telling people they could claim they qualified as a result of COVID-19 protocols and the then-enacted Safer-at-Home orders. A month after now-President Joe Biden’s victory in Wisconsin, the high court ruled that individual voters are allowed to decide on their own if they are indefinitely confined.

Schmaling’s latest salvo against the WEC comes just over five months after the Racine Co. District Attorney opted not to bring charges against the board members he sought to have prosecuted. The previous October, Schmaling held a high-profile news conference in which he claimed the board members broke the law by telling local elections officials to send absentee ballots to eight nursing home residents in 2020 instead of sending poll workers to oversee voting there during the coronavirus pandemic.

Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson said in a letter dated Thursday that she would not file charges against members of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission because none of them live in her county and she doesn’t have jurisdiction. The district attorney says she also won’t charge staff at a Racine County nursing home. But she also said she thinks the elections commission broke the law.

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