A Wisconsin sheriff who’s argued for months that the state’s top elections officials should be charged criminally actually celebrated a local right-wing activist who admitted that he filled out ballot request forms using other people’s names.
The activist, Harry Wait, went online to request absentee ballots for himself in the names of Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Racine Mayor Cory Mason (D).
“Basically, I committed a crime when I ordered them,” Wait told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Lying on absentee ballot request forms is illegal, but Wait said he did so to make a political point about how the state’s online absentee ballot request form, and in fact “all absentee ballots,” should be discontinued.
Wait told Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling what he’d done.
“He said, ‘Thank you so much for breaking this open,’” Wait recalled of his conversation with Schmaling, the Washington Post reported. “So I said, ‘Does that mean you’re not going to arrest me?’ And he said, ‘Hell, no.’”
On Schmaling’s Facebook page, the sheriff referred to Wait as a “complainant” who “requested the ballot of two prominent government officials and numerous individuals from around the state.”
“This complainant reported he was successful in ordering these ballots be sent to the complainant’s home because he knew these individuals’ dates of birth and without showing any form of photo identification,” the sheriff wrote. “Based upon this serious threat to voter integrity, the Sheriff’s Office has contacted the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office and the Wisconsin Elections Commission.”
Schmaling added, making Wait’s point, “I am disheartened by the apparent vulnerabilities in My Vote Wisconsin that are ripe for fraud.”
‘What Exactly Is A Sheriff’s Job?’
Schmaling’s reported celebration of Wait’s stunt is in keeping with the worldview of the “constitutional sheriffs” movement. “Constitutional” sheriffs assert that they are the highest law enforcement authorities in their counties — above even state and federal authorities — and also that they have a duty to ignore laws they personally deem unconstitutional.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schmaling was one of several Wisconsin sheriffs to defy public health orders issued by the state. At the time, the sheriff said he would “leave the enforcement of public health orders to the health department experts.”
Then, after Donald Trump lost Wisconsin in the 2020 election, Schmaling called publicly for the majority of the Wisconsin Election Commission, the bipartisan board that oversees elections in the state, to face felony charges because they’d voted not to send election workers known as special voting deputies to nursing homes during the 2020 elections, in light of the then-strict COVID-19 visitation rules.
Multiple prosecutors declined to charge the commissioners, and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul criticized Schmaling’s recommendation for charges as “a disgraceful publicity stunt” and “an abuse of authority.”
Nonetheless, Schmaling has continued to push for prosecutions. Earlier this month, he was one of several sheriffs to speak at a “Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers” event in Las Vegas.
During his remarks, which were aired on MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s platform Frank Speech (41:30), Schmaling chafed at the idea of being told to “do your job” from people who disagreed with his decisions.
“When I exposed this election fraud that was going on, I was told to ‘do my job.’ I thought, ‘What exactly is a sheriff’s job?’” he said. “I’m the chief law enforcement officer of my county. I investigate crime that occurs within my county. I’m in charge of public safety. And I was made aware of a crime that occurred so I investigated it.”
District Attorney Investigating
While the county sheriff apparently thanked Wait for “breaking this open,” Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson (R) told the Post her office was investigating the matter.
And in a statement Thursday, the Wisconsin Election Commission referred to “reports of unlawful and isolated attempts to obtain absentee ballots via MyVote” before denying that there were any vulnerabilities in the online platform, nor that absentee ballot requests made online are more susceptible to fraud.
The statement noted that it was a crime “to provide false information or use another person’s information to unlawfully request the ballot of someone else.”