The Wisconsin Elections Commission issued the below statement following reports of unlawful and isolated attempts to obtain absentee ballots via MyVote, Wisconsin’s public facing online voter registration and information website:
There is no indication of any vulnerability with the MyVote application. The idea that absentee ballot requests made online, via MyVote, are more susceptible to fraud is false. The MyVote web application requires a person to provide the same information he or she would provide if the person made the ballot request through traditional mail or email. MyVote does not make it any easier to commit voter fraud than requesting a ballot through other methods.
Requesting or attempting to vote an absentee ballot in the name of another person has long been and continues to be a crime. Under the law, a voter can request an absentee ballot for him or herself only. In some instances an individual may be able to serve as an assistor with explicit permission from a voter with a disability.
People who intentionally misuse the MyVote application can be subject to severe criminal and civil penalties. It is illegal to provide false information or use another person’s information to unlawfully request the ballot of someone else.
“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,” said WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe. “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,” Wolfe continued.
Wis. Stat. § 12.13(3)(i) states no person may “falsely make any statement for the purpose of obtaining or voting an absentee ballot.” Wis. Stat. § 12.13(1)(d) states that a person who “impersonates a registered elector or poses as another person for the purpose of voting at an election” violates the law. A person who “falsely procures registration or makes false statements to the municipal clerk, board of election commissioners or any other election official whether or not under oath,” also violates state law, per Wis. Stat. § 12.13(1)(b).
A person may lawfully request, through MyVote or the mail, that their own absentee ballot be mailed to a different address than their residential address if they plan to be away, or if they do not receive mail at their residential address. This is an option whether you make your request for a ballot via paper application, email, or through MyVote.wi.gov.
The MyVote application does not automatically send an absentee ballot to the requester. Requests for absentee ballots made on MyVote generate an email to the respective voter’s municipal clerk, who then determines whether the voter has provided the necessary and correct information to receive an absentee ballot, including a photo ID. To receive an absentee ballot through the mail, a voter either must provide a copy of an acceptable photo ID or the clerk must check that one is on file for the voter from a previous request.
As required by Wisconsin law, a person who attests they are indefinitely confined is not required to present a photo ID; however, those who make this attestation do so under the penalty of law.
Voter fraud remains very rare in Wisconsin. Even so, the state maintains multiple checks to ensure Wisconsin elections are secure and accurate, including the recording of every voter transaction in the statewide voter database.
Anyone who has credible information that a person has fraudulently requested an absentee ballot in the name of another voter should contact local law enforcement or their local FBI field office.
As always, voters may use MyVote.wi.gov to check their own voter information, including whether an absentee ballot request has been made.