In a video, Harry Wait holds up absentee ballots he requested on behalf of other people. (Screenshot)
The Wisconsin Department of Justice has charged a Racine County man with two felonies and two misdemeanors for allegedly fraudulent requests for the absentee ballots of other people, including several public officials.
The man, Harry Wait, posted videos online of himself requesting absentee ballots for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and City of Racine Mayor Cory Mason. Wait, a right-wing activist involved in efforts to discredit the results of the 2020 presidential election, said he was attempting to expose an alleged vulnerability in the state’s voter registration system.
On Thursday, the DOJ announced that Wait had been charged with two felony counts of the unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identifying information and two misdemeanor counts of election fraud. Each of the felony charges comes with a maximum sentence of six years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Each misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.
After Wait requested the absentee ballots in July, he alerted the Racine County Sheriff’s Office of the apparent “vulnerability” in the MyVote system. Racine Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, a right-wing supporter of election conspiracies, said in a Facebook post just days before the August primary election that the Wisconsin Elections Commission should deactivate the program that allows voters to request absentee ballots through MyVote. Schmaling also said he had no plans to charge Wait with a crime.
In an August interview with DOJ investigators, Wait admitted to requesting the absentee ballots of several people without their permission, knew that it was a crime to do so and said that he planned to do so again, according to the criminal complaint.
Last month, Wait told the Racine Journal Times that he plans to use his prosecution to request “hundreds of thousands of documents” during the discovery process from the WEC and that he does “play chess,” adding that he expects national funding to help mount his defense
According to the complaint, WEC records showed that seven absentee ballots had been requested to Wait’s Union Grove home.
Elections officials in the state said that Wait requesting the ballots wasn’t proof that the system was vulnerable to fraud, only proof that he’d broken the law. On Thursday, the WEC said in a statement that it’s not a law enforcement agency and it would be inappropriate to comment on the case, but that it stands by the MyVote system.
“The WEC stands by the integrity of the MyVote application,” the agency stated. “All forms of voting in Wisconsin, including by-mail absentee, are secure and reliable.”
On Thursday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement that the DOJ is committed to protecting the state’s election system.
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that the integrity of our elections is protected from alleged intentional violations of the law,” Kaul said.
Just days before Wait was charged, the election conspiracy organization he’s the president of, HOT (honest, open and transparent) Government, filed a complaint with the WEC claiming that all absentee ballot requests made using MyVote are illegal because state law doesn’t explicitly state that the practice is allowed, the Journal Times reported.
State law allows people to request absentee ballots in a number of ways, including by sending an email to a person’s municipal clerk. The MyVote system, election officials have repeatedly stated, requests ballots by facilitating the sending of that email.
The HOT Government complaint alleges it’s still illegal to use MyVote.
“There is no Wisconsin state statute that authorizes the existence of MyVote, let alone the existence of MyVote receiving absentee ballot applications,” the complaint states.
The complaint, written by HOT Government vice president Jay Stone, demands the suspension of MyVote’s “involvement in absentee ballot applications,” and that the WEC “stop the persecution of Harry Wait because none of the absentee ballot applications Harry submitted had the force of law behind it.”
Wait is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Racine County Circuit Court on Sept. 8 at 2 p.m.
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