But the far-right advocate didn’t get the ballots of two public officials because the system worked. The Racine County Sheriff gives the crime a wink while advancing his own “Big Lie” claims.
In what may turn out to be the most bizarre political event of an already tumultuous year, a Big Lie advocate in Racine County admitted to committing election fraud—lying to receive someone else’s ballots—and is trying to use it as an excuse to make it harder for honest voters to request their own ballot.
The admitted fraudster, Harry Wait, already has a public advocate in Republican Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, who told Wait he wouldn’t prosecute him for the crime. Schmaling later posted on social media his continued concerns about election integrity—concerns that do not exist beyond a core group of Republican supporters of former President Donald Trump who created the doubts based on a lie designed to allow Trump to steal the 2020 election.
Wait said he used the state elections website, MyVote.WI.gov, to request an absentee ballot be sent to him in the name of state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). It appears no such ballot was sent because of safeguards already in the system. But Wait claims the ability to ask for a ballot means the system is broken, even though the system worked as intended by disallowing the fraud to continue.
Wait—who is backing a Republican primary challenger to Vos—even posted a video of himself committing the fraudulent request for Vos’ ballot and that of about a dozen other people. He called for the MyVote site to be shut down, which would affect voters across the state who can use the site—legally—to request ballots, check their registration status, see what races are on their ballot, and more.
Laws against making false statements to election clerks are already on the books, but Wait said Schmaling assured him the sheriff won’t pursue the matter. Schmaling has previously called for members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) to be charged with crimes for giving guidance that helped nursing home residents vote in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Schmaling previously made headlines during that time by publicly stating he would not enforce safeguards designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Cases and deaths in Racine County spiked shortly afterward to the point of being listed among the top hotspots in the country.
The lack of any prosecution for election fraud did not sit well with one commission member.
“They intentionally went and stole somebody’s ballot,” said Ann Jacobs, a former WEC chair. “It’s like walking into Walmart and picking up a large-screen TV and walking out the door with it and then going to the cops and saying, ‘It’s really easy to steal this.’ You still stole it.”
WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe was equally direct about where the blame lies.
“Intentionally using someone else’s identity to subvert the system does not demonstrate a flaw with MyVote,” said Wolfe, “but rather a flaw with that person’s conduct.”
Racine Mayor Cory Mason—another of Wait’s targets for fraudulent ballot requests—was quoted in the Washington Post noting the familiar pattern of fraud only being committed by Trump supporters.
“It’s clearly wrong and, you know, laced with all kinds of irony of people so desperate to prove a conspiracy that doesn’t exist that they’re willing to perform the very crime they claim they’re trying to prevent,” Mason said.