Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling. (Racine County Sheriff’s Office | Facebook)
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling alleged on Wednesday that there are “vulnerabilities” in Wisconsin’s statewide election website because people can request absentee ballots under someone else’s name. Election officials responded that this is a crime and the fact that someone can commit a crime doesn’t mean it’s a vulnerability.
In the process of searching for alleged voter fraud, a group of right-wing activists apparently broke the law by impersonating other people to request absentee ballots.
In a Facebook post, Schmaling wrote that anyone who has the name and date of birth of a registered voter can request and cast an absentee ballot as that person through Wisconsin’s MyVote system. Schmaling wrote that this can be done without needing to provide a photo ID and the ballot can be sent to a different address than the one where the voter is registered.
Schmaling, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, has previously called for the criminal prosecution of five current and former members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) and has made appearances at 2020 election conspiracy events. He called for the “immediate suspension” of the MyVote system’s absentee ballot request function less than two weeks before the state’s Aug. 9 primary election.
“While My Vote Wisconsin has many useful capabilities and provides valuable information, the Sheriff’s Office is calling for the immediate suspension of the function within My Vote Wisconsin where a person can request another’s absentee ballot and have it mailed to a different address, with or without showing any proper photo identification,” he wrote. “The Sheriff’s Office is calling for the immediate suspension of the function allowing for the declaration of being indefinitely confined, which allows for ballots to be sent to different addresses for ‘All future elections.’ Lastly, based upon the concerns of the community, the Sheriff’s Office is requesting a full, state-wide, investigation into this voter integrity issue by the Attorney General’s Office and the Wisconsin Election Commission to ensure the voting process is secure and that appropriate safeguards are in place.”
An absentee ballot can only be requested without providing a photo ID if the voter has previously requested an absentee ballot online and already uploaded identification proof into the system. An absentee ballot can be sent to a different address, even outside the county where voters are registered, because some absentee voters are temporarily living somewhere else — for example, if they’re away for college or a job.
Requesting an absentee ballot as someone else is a crime.
“The fact that people can commit crimes doesn’t mean the system doesn’t work,” Ann Jacobs, a Democratic member of the WEC told the Racine Journal Times. “It’s also possible for me to walk into Walmart, grab a flat-screen TV and walk out the front door. It’s a crime either way.”
Voter impersonation using an absentee ballot would be detected as soon as the person being impersonated attempted to request an absentee ballot or vote in person. Furthermore, in order for this form of voter fraud to be used to meaningfully change the results of an election, voter impersonators would need to know that the people they are impersonating are registered to vote with their IDs loaded into MyVote yet did not plan on voting in an upcoming election.
Schamling wrote that this “vulnerability” was discovered when several Racine County residents attempted to request ballots under the names of their friends and government officials — an apparent violation of the law. One Racine County resident, Adrian Melby, told the Journal Times that she had a friend request a ballot under her name, while the group Honest Open and Transparent (H.O.T) Government requested ballots as Racine Mayor Cory Mason and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
After requesting and obtaining the ballots, Melby and H.O.T. Government turned themselves into Schmaling, who responded by calling foul about the apparent flaw they’d found in the system, not the crimes they apparently broke in the process.
Elections officials also pointed out that the process for requesting an absentee ballot online is essentially the same as requesting a ballot through the mail.
“Claiming that by committing a crime by submitting false information to obtain an absentee ballot somehow reveals a vulnerability of our system is inaccurate and irresponsible,” WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe said in a statement. “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. A nefarious person who chooses to impersonate someone else in order to gain official documents of any kind – whether for election use or any other purpose – is clearly violating state and federal law and could face consequences.”
“The WEC and your local clerk are continually monitoring for any unlawful activity and working with state and federal authorities to investigate any and all attempts to break the law regarding access to absentee ballots,” she continued.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the partisan primary election is Aug. 5.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.