“In hindsight, I’d do it a hundred times over,” Wait said.
Wait is the chairman of a group called HOT Government, which takes its name from its pledge to advocate for “fair, open and transparent government.” He has used his platform for the past two years to question the state’s electoral laws and practices.
In July, he used an online state portal called MyVote Wisconsin to request primaries in the name of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Racine Mayor Cory Mason (D), two officials he has long criticized. Mason’s ballot was sent to Wait’s home in Dover in southeastern Wisconsin, but not Vos’s. Wait said he returned Mason’s unopened ballot to county officials.
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Shortly after asking for the ballots, Wait warned the sheriff and the chief prosecutor in his county to tell them what he had done and to present himself for arrest. Wait claimed his ability to make the request showed that the MyVote portal was flawed and called on officials to shut it down.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling (R) told Wait he would not arrest him and praised him for alerting the public to the matter. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) announced shortly afterwards that the Department of Justice was investigating the matter.
On Thursday, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Susan Happ charged Wait with two felony counts of unauthorized use of personally identifiable information and two felony counts of voter fraud. If found guilty on all charges, Wait could face up to 13 years in prison and $22,000 in fines.
The indictment describes Wait as requesting ballots in the names of “Individual 1” and “Individual 2”. Other records, along with Wait’s own comments, reveal that they are Fox and Mason. According to the indictment, Wait also ordered ballots in the name of others, after obtaining their consent. He is not charged with crimes for ordering those ballots.
Wait has repeatedly admitted that he did what the indictment alleges. He said on Thursday that he planned to represent himself initially and would claim he did not break the law because he does not believe the MyVote system is legal. Election officials have dismissed his claims that the portal is legally invalid.
“You have to do what you have to do to protect the republic,” Wait said. “What I have done is certain. I have given the DOJ everything they need to prosecute me. And I will stand in front of 12 jurors and see if they agree with the DOJ.”
With MyVote, anyone can look up voters if they know their name and date of birth. Once logged in, they can order absentee ballots and request that they be sent anywhere. That option is available so that voters who are temporarily absent can have their ballots sent to their place of residence.
Most Wisconsin voters must provide a copy of a photo ID when first applying for a ballot. Under state law, voters who say they are indefinite may who are housebound because of their age or disability are not required to provide proof of identity. Wait used that feature to get around the ID requirement, he has said.
Requesting a ballot via MyVote generates an email to the voter’s municipal secretary, who makes the final decision on whether or not to send a ballot. The clerk in Mason’s community sent his ballot to Wait, but the one in Vos’s community didn’t after checking the request. She also said she had prevented another ballot in Vos’s name from being sent abroad.
Voter fraud is rare. Last year, the Wisconsin Elections Commission identified 41 cases of potential voter fraud in primaries and elections in late 2020 and early 2021. That accounts for a small fraction of the millions of votes cast in those elections.