MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two people in Wisconsin who believe false claims that the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud admitted they broke state election law by requesting absentee ballots for others in an attempt to underscore vulnerabilities in the state's voter website, according to a local sheriff.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling issued a statement Thursday saying that two people contacted his office saying they believe the state's My Vote Wisconsin website, which facilitates absentee ballot requests, is vulnerable to fraud. Schmaling, a Republican who has accused state officials of violating election laws, did not release the two people's names.
Neither has been charged, and he gave no indication that they were under investigation, instead using the cases to attack the state Elections Commission.
One of the people, first identified by the Racine Journal Times as Adrianne Melby, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday evening that she asked a friend to go on the website and request a ballot in her name, but enter her friend's address. The ballot showed up in her friend's mailbox a few days later, she said.
“It is literally that easy to do,” she said.
The other person, a man first identified by the Wisconsin State Journal as Harry Wait, president of local advocacy group HOT Government that promotes honest, open and transparent government, acknowledged to The Associated Press that he ordered 10 ballots for people, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Racine Mayor Cory Mason. Wait said he asked that the ballots be sent to his home.
“It’s something I’m doing for the greater good of the community,” he said. “If (the website) is vulnerable to a person like me who’s technically challenged, someone who’s even better could be harvesting ballots (at a rate of) 20 to 30 an hour.”
The Elections Commission issued a statement disputing that the setup is a vulnerability. Anyone who falsely obtains an absentee ballot is guilty of a crime and every voter transaction is recorded in a database, the statement said.
Melby rejected the notion that she or her friend did anything wrong, saying her friend acted with her permission. Wait acknowledged he broke the law but did it “for the greater good of our republic.”
Schmaling in his statement demanded that the state Elections Commission suspend sections of the website. He said that anyone can request another person's ballot be sent to them through the website if the requestor has the person's name, birthdate and address — the same information that is required to request an absentee ballot by mail, the Elections Commission noted.
Schmaling has called for prosecutors to charge five Wisconsin Elections Commission members because they voted in March 2020 not to send special deputies into nursing homes to help residents vote absentee due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul called Schmaling’s demand a “disgraceful publicity stunt.”
Multiple reviews and court decisions have determined no widespread fraud took place in Wisconsin during the 2020 election and Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump in the state was legitimate. Republicans have refused to accept that fact, however, and continue to call for lawmakers to decertify the results even though legal experts say that's impossible.
This story has been updated to correct the sheriff's first name to Christopher. It has also corrected the number of Wisconsin Election Commission members the sheriff has said should be charged to five, not six.