A Wisconsin man who bragged on Facebook and even took to the airwaves in the state’s largest media market to vet his grievances about absentee ballot procedures in the Badger State has been charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors.
Harry E. Wait, 68, of Union Grove, Wisconsin, is accused of two counts of election fraud and two counts of unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identifying information, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said in a press release on Thursday evening. He allegedly requested the ballots of two people without permission while manning a booth at the Racine County Fair.
The election fraud charges are each hypothetically punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, a criminal complaint indicates. The more serious identity use charges are Class H felonies that are each punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000, according to that same document.
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that the integrity of our elections is protected from alleged intentional violations of the law,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat.
Kaul’s office summed it up this way:
According to the criminal complaint, on the evening of July 26, 2022, Mr. Wait went to MyVote.wi.gov and requested absentee ballots for two individuals to be sent to his address in Union Grove, Wis. The complaint states that, in multiple online videos and other correspondence, Mr. Wait admitted requesting the ballots using the other individuals’ personal identifying information. The complaint states that the individuals did not authorize Mr. Wait to use their personal identifying information for this purpose.
The aforementioned criminal complaint says the underlying acts occurred July 26, 2022, and involved the use of the identities of two individuals. They are not named in the complaint, but Wait — the soon-to-be defendant — told Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN-TV just three days after the alleged crimes that he ordered ballots in the names of Racine Mayor Cory Mason and Wisconsin State Rep. Robin Vos of Racine County, the speaker of the state assembly. Mason is a Democrat; Vos is a Republican.
Wait described himself to WISN on July 29 as the president of H.O.T. Government, which the television station described as a “watchdog group.” The acronym, according to yellow and black signs positions behind Wait during the interview, stands for “honest,” “open,” and “transparent.”
He heartily admitted on camera to requesting the ballots.
“If that’s what it takes to stop the fraud in our elections so we can have safe — real safe, secure elections, yes, I’ll go behind bars,” Wait said on camera.
“I was notified that there may be vulnerability in the online WEC [Wisconsin Election Commission] voting system,” Wait continued. “So, in order to test them on Tuesday night, we went online and we ordered ballots for Cory Mason, who is the mayor of the city of Racine, and Robin Vos, who happens to be our state assembly leader.”
Wait, again unabashedly appearing on camera, claimed he notified Vos and Mason that he had “successfully logged into the WEC system and ordered their ballots to be sent to me.”
WISN reported that Wait claimed several other people were involved in the alleged “test,” but the television station said Wait admitted he is the one who pushed the button to order the ballots.
That July 29 television appearance was preceded by an alleged admission by Wait on Facebook, according to the criminal complaint.
On July 28, the Wisconsin Election Commission notified criminal investigators that a page called “Freedom Fighters of Wisconsin” contained a post which claimed someone had been “requesting absentee ballots in other people’s names.”
In the post, the criminal complaint says Wait claimed he ordered other ballots as well, but those attempts were with the permission of the individuals whose names he used.
Wait said he was “‘ready to be charged’ for his actions,” prosecutors wrote.
The Facebook page in question contains a mission statement which espouses the group’s intent to be an “instrumental force to carry forward and preserve our God-given rights, Liberties & Freedoms as Americans.” The statement says the group formed “because many are experiencing loss of their freedom and liberty” and because “government at all levels” has an alleged penchant for “increasing control, overreach and eventually, tyranny.”
The images posted to the group’s page include art of the Constitution, Jesus walking in a wooded area stylized as an American flag, a couple of pictures of a Donald Trump endorsement for a local candidate, and a copied-and-pasted notice about a Trump rally.
The post in question by Wait, dated July 27, appears to still be live on the group’s site.
The missive reads:
Significant vulnerabilities at Request An Absentee Ballot (wi.gov) have been identified where anyone with a smartphone or computer can order an absentee ballot online in someone’s else’s name and have that absentee ballot sent to an address other than the registered voter. All you need is the date of birth.
Further, the I.D. of anyone requesting these absentee ballots is not requested or required.
Yesterday evening to prove how easily absentee ballots can be nefariously ordered, I went online and successfully ordered absentee ballots in Cory Mason and Robin Vos’s name to be shipped to my address. I selected these two high profile public figures because they are scofflaws, have no respect for law and are among the most disingenuous and notorious fraudsters within our state. Both in their own way have contributed to the demise of the public’s lack of confidence in our elections.
I will of course return their absentee ballots should they arrive.
The screed continues, verbatim:
To further support and verify our findings, I obtained permission to order absentee ballots from numerous individuals from around the state and successfully ordered their absentee ballots to be shipped to my address without their assistance. These efforts verified that a very large-scale absentee ballot harvesting scheme with nefarious intentions is easily accomplished due to a lack of a secure website along with the maladministration and malfeasance of WEC officials.
Recognising [sic] the destruction of our republic is imminent with continued voter fraud, the need of an informed public is paramount. We will be providing the public with these recent findings immediately.
I stand ready to be charged for exposing these voting vulnerabilities when I ordered Mason’s and Vos’s absentee ballot online, all without providing a photo I.D. or identifying myself.
We are still a republic where we elect our servant / leaders. Servant leaders govern with our consent and the public’s consent is currently weaning to a possible point of no return.
As a citizen, I am disgusted and appalled with the continued systematic failures of WEC to secure our elections.
As citizens and elected officials, I urge all of you to act upon this information immediately, take actions to nullify the current early voting ballots, secure our elections and be a force to quash all voter fraud within our state.
The post is signed by Wait and even provides his address and telephone number.
The criminal complaint says audit history logs from the state’s absentee ballot website contained requests for seven ballots that contained Wait’s home address. The logs contained other information that allegedly traced back to Wait’s computer.
An eighth request bearing a Czech Republic mailing address was traced back to the same IP address allegedly used by Wait, the criminal complaint indicates.
Telegram posts and Rumble videos were also examined. The videos are said by prosecutors to show the process of the ballot requests submitted by Wait.
One video showed Wait discussing the process at a county fair; he allegedly “acknowledged that he committed crimes” by requesting the ballots.
The complaint also explained the warnings portrayed on the absentee ballot site — warnings which appeared on at least one of the videos — to inform users of the relevant laws involving ballots.
The charging document indicates that pictures of either Vos’ or Mason’s ballots did, indeed, arrive at the defendant’s house on or before July 29.
In yet another video, Wait allegedly bragged that he had conducted a “sting operation” to “prove that it was possible to ‘harvest ballots’ on the Internet ‘without any ID or any IP address being used.'”
Again, it turned out that the state was, indeed, recording the IP address data.
Wait also allegedly bragged on video that he received three ballots in the mail.
The defendant also allegedly sent an email at 3:13 a.m. on July 27 to multiple “law enforcement officers and Wisconsin politicians” to inform them of his alleged sting operation.
“I stand ready to be charged for exposing these voting vulnerabilities when I ordered” the ballots for Vos and Mason, Wait allegedly wrote — though the politicians’ names are redacted in the criminal complaint.
His beef was that he could order the documents “without providing a photo I.D. or identifying myself,” the email allegedly asserted.
Again, Wait is said to have provided his full name, address, and phone number on the email.
By August 24, law enforcement officers were ready to speak with Wait. Again, he allegedly admitted that he requested the Vos and Mason ballots “while he was at the H.O.T. Government booth at the Racine County Fair.” He allegedly admitted that he did not have the permission of either, allegedly admitted that he knew he was committing a crime, and allegedly “further stated he would do it again.”
A summons says the defendant is due to answer the charges on Thurs., Sept. 8 at 2:00 p.m. in the Racine County Courthouse. A warrant for his arrest will be issued if he fails to appear, the summons indicates.
Both Mason and Vos denounced Wait, according to WISN’s report.
“I learned that one of the top volunteers for my primary opponent’s campaign admitted to fraudulently posing as me and attempting to steal my ballot,” Vos told the television station. “This is voter fraud. His actions are sad. If election integrity means anything, it means we all have to follow the law – Republicans and Democrats alike.”
Mason reacted similarly.
“For a long time, there have been people so desperate to find election fraud that I think Mr. Wait has become the very thing that he claims to despise, which is apparently a felon who will steal somebody’s vote,” Mason said, according to WISN. “Just to see this country continue to go down this path of people wanting so desperately to prove something that’s not true that they’re willing to undermine our democracy, make it harder for people to vote and then overtly steal people’s votes that’s deeply disconcerting.”
Online court records do not yet list a defense attorney for Wait.
On Friday, Wait responded to a Law&Crime request for comment by indicating he had a “very aggressive plan to defend my acts.”
“Much will be filed into the court record on September 8th,” he promised via email.
A copy of the DOJ’s press release, the criminal complaint, the summons, and a print-out of the Facebook post in question are all embedded below:
This report has been updated to include Wait’s comments to Law&Crime on Friday.
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