Ahead of spring primary, Wis. voters wary of ‘misleading’ texts
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin’s spring primary is Tuesday, but that is not the message from an unknown number, now raising suspicions among some voters.
At a quick glance, the texts may seem ordinary, but multiple NBC15 viewers have raised questions about them. The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), the nonpartisan state agency tasked with administering and enforcing election laws in the state, said it also has the texts on its radar.
The format and language of the texts are similar across all five of examples submitted. The message begins with a photo of the registered voter’s polling place and addresses the recipient. It continues to tell them, “You may not have voted yet,” and “You can vote April 4th.”
April 4 is Wisconsin’s spring election, but the message sent Sunday failed to mention the primary happening much sooner, on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
“That’s what made me suspicious. It was an attempt to downplay the primary election,” Michael Schaik from Fontana said. He also questioned the timing of the message, saying, “If the intention was to really encourage voting in the general election, it’s too early.”
Megan Heneke from Madison is another voter who alerted NBC15 to the messaging. She said, “It struck me as someone who has some kind of incentive to have a lower voter turnout election on February 21st by making people think, again, that the next available time for voting is April 4th and just skipping right over the fact that there is an election tomorrow [Tuesday].”
Heneke chatted back and forth with someone who identified themselves as a volunteer with VoteFTW.
“I told the person sending the text that I thought the text was misleading, and they didn’t respond to that,” she said.
NBC15 got no response Monday from the numbers that sent the text. The website VoteFTW, a link to which the “volunteer” sent to Heneke, did not have any contacts but a paragraph saying the group is “dedicated to making the process of voting as clear and easy as possible.”
Meanwhile, the WEC calls VoteFTW a “private voter organization.” This comes from an email NBC15 obtained from an elections supervisor to Dena Jenks, a third viewer who got the text Sunday.
Riley Willman wrote to Jenks, in part: “I do not believe that this text message broke any election laws because there is an election on April 4th, however I do wish that they would have also discussed the Feb. 21 Primary as well so that voters are presented with all of their options.”
He continued to say the WEC does not have the ability to prevent groups from sending out texts unless a formal complaint is filed detailing which election law was broken. The full complaint process can be here.
Tuesday, Feb. 21 is Wisconsin’s spring primary. You can double check your polling place here.
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