Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Don Millis said he supports criminal referrals for individuals who have illegally requested other voters’ absentee ballots.

Millis, the new Republican chair, urged a “rational” response instead of a “knee-jerk” reaction.

Millis made the comments during a WEC meeting last night following the news that Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling posted to Facebook about reports from voters who had requested absentee ballots under others’ names.

Meanwhile, Harry Wait of the conservative Honest, Open and Transparent Government yesterday said he had personally requested the ballots of Speaker Robin Vos and Racine Mayor Cory Mason with the goal of showing how easy it is to illegally obtain a ballot. Wait yesterday told he did not receive the ballots.

Republican appointee Bob Spindell cited concerns about the absentee ballot request system through the MyVote Wisconsin website.

“What I think what they’re trying to point out is that anybody in the world — I could be in Mykonos Island, right? Where I would just stay out in Greece and sit down and start requesting a lot of what happened here,” Spindell said.

Dem appointees during the meeting voiced frustration with the delay to refer individuals for criminal charges. Commissioner Mark Thomsen told Millis he was confused by the discussion over new restrictions for absentee ballots rather than taking immediate action to address fraud.

“I’m fully aware that Speaker Vos just recently appointed you and from my reading of the press Speaker Vos came out specifically and said that whoever was using his name was committing a fraud,” Thomsen said. “And from what I’ve gleaned from the reports, Harry Wait has admitted to fraud and so it seems to me the way to stop fraud is to prosecute fraud and not talk about weird issues.”

Millis said he was concerned about details such as which county to refer the issues to, where the people committing fraud are living and communicating with clerks and the public.

“I want to go about it in a little more sophisticated way, I want to know more about it. I want staff to know more about it,” Millis said of the issue.

Millis added certain people who had illegally requested ballots had already made themselves known to the public.

Thomsen argued the only path forward to prevent further fraud is to make referrals.

“I think we need to be absolutely clear. The reason we’re here is people decided intentionally to break the law and commit fraud, and that’s the only reason we’re here. Period,” Thomsen said.

Commissioner Ann Jacobs, a Dem appointee, expressed frustration with Wait’s interviews with the press.

“I appreciate the chair’s desire to be thoughtful,” Jacobs told Millis. “But sometimes when people confess fully in the newspaper, we don’t really need to go into a lengthy analysis over it.”

WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe during the meeting said clerks were able to flag illegitimate absentee ballot requests, contact the individuals involved and cancel them.

Though the commissioners did not decide on making any referrals during the meeting, they did agree unanimously to send out a mailer to clerks warning them of the issue and their obligations to respond. They also agreed on sending follow-up postcards to voters with an absentee ballot request on file who have a separate or different mailing address to ensure they made the request themselves.

The commission is set to meet again next week for a discussion on further action.

Ahead of last night’s meeting, Racine Mayor Cory Mason announced Racine County’s district attorney would investigate the attempt to obtain an absentee ballot in his name.

Mason in a statement said he was “outraged” to find out Wait had requested his ballot.

“In his desperation to support Donald Trump’s big lie, Mr. Wait has himself become the very thing he claims to despise: a felon attempting to steal votes,” Mason said.

According to the statement, Wait notified Mason over email that he had requested the ballot.

“I have spoken to the District Attorney who will be opening an investigation which could lead to charges being pressed,” Mason said.

See Mason’s statement:

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