Students Warned on Absentee Ballot/Residency Issues

MacIver News Service | August 4, 2011

Supporters on both sides of this month’s state senate recall elections are emphasizing the importance of absentee ballot programs. Nowhere is that push more evident than of Wisconsin’s college campuses where left-leaning organizations made a concerted effort to get out the youth vote.

For example, Fair Wisconsin, the state LGBT lobby, launched “Vote Naked” earlier this year to register students for absentee ballots for the recall elections.

Fair Wisconsin’s push earlier this year was: “Whether you’re at your parent’s house, your trip abroad, working 24/7 or actually NAKED, you too can participate in these historic elections…. A Students for Fair Wisconsin organizer will come to your door within a few days with a completed absentee ballot request form for you to sign.  We’ll even deliver your form right to your City Clerk’s office.”

Sen. Grothman

“The absentee ballot provisions are there for permanent residents, to make sure those otherwise occupied have the ability to cast a vote in elections where they live,” said State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend). “A dorm contract that expires in May or a lease that begins in September does not qualify you to vote on August 9. The law is not there to simply make things easy to cheat.”

Using Facebook and other social media tools, Fair Wisconsin targeted students to register to vote absentee.

At UW-River Falls, Fair Wisconsin solicited many students to register to vote absentee. However not all the applications were completed correctly. City Clerk Lu Ann Hecht stated “We received applications where the requester was not registered in River Falls or was not registered at the RiverFalls address listed on the application.”

Such errors are not uncommon with third-party absentee vote drives, several clerks told us.

Nevertheless, in River Falls, dozens of students were able to register for an absentee ballot, including 24 students who gave mailing addresses in Minnesota. Of these, 22 registered with phone numbers with a Minnesota area code, one did not provide a phone number, and one gave a North Dakota area code.

Laremy Ellsworth lives in rural Minnesota between the towns of Dover and St. Charles.

On May 9, according to records from the River Falls City Clerk, Ellsworth registered for an absentee ballot for River Falls, WI, using an address 2 blocks north of UW-River Falls. A check of county records indicates he voted once in River Falls during the November 2008 presidential elections.  Casual voters like Ellsworth hare the prime targets for absentee vote programs.  Organizers generally believe voters like him would be more willing to vote if the process were much simpler.

But should Ellsworth be voting in an August election in Wisconsin?

On May 10th, Ellsworth posted on his facebook wall that he “will be out of this **** hole” in “less than a week.” Four days later, Laremy Ellsworth graduated from UW-River Falls.

But, before he left Wisconsin, Elsworth registered to have his absentee ballot mailed to Dover, MN.

In total 22 students who lived in the UW-River Falls dorms, and two UW-River Falls students who lived off campus registered for absentee ballots to be sent to Minnesota. Twenty one of these students had never voted before in a Wisconsin election, and the remaining three, like Ellsworth had only voted in the 2008 presidential election.

“Absentee voters should be reminded that they will face prosecution if they vote in the August 9 election without a permanent residence in the district on that date.” said Grothman.

A cross check of the Minnesota voters list with absentee ballot requests from three western Wisconsin campuses found eight voters who requested to vote absentee in the upcoming Wisconsin recalls who are currently registered to vote as Minnesota residents.

Two of those students requesting absentee ballots, Nicholas Gerhard Newman and Frederick Daniel Wolter voted in Minnesota as recently as November 2010.

Under Wisconsin Statutes 12.13 and 12.60, anyone who votes at any election if that person does not meet the necessary residence requirements is guilty of a Class I felony. Under 6.10(8) No person gains a residence in any ward or election district of this state while there for temporary purposes only.

“It is up to the clerks, the Government Accountability Board, the District Attorneys and the Attorney General to make absolutely certain that no one is voting at a college campus who is not a permanent resident there,” Grothman said. “This is not a game.”

  • \”Under Wisconsin Statutes 12.13 and 12.60, anyone who votes at any election if that person does not meet the necessary residence requirements is guilty of a Class I felony. Under 6.10(8) No person gains a residence in any ward or election district of this state while there for temporary purposes only.\”

    This is the EXACT problem I addressed with our legislators about the new Voter ID bill. WHY are students who are only here on a temporary basis being allowed to use STUDENT ID to vote? They are not here on a permanent basis!

    I also addressed the issue of absentee ballot fraud – at the January GOP caucus!

    Thanks for listening GOP! Not! (Written in January 2011, Published March 2011)

    Good luck in those recalls. You\’re on your own!

    Do you hear me now?

    Lauren Stephens
    Executive Director, Conservative Wisconsin
    Beloit, WI

  • Jim

    Instead of reminding them that they MAY be prosecuted for making a mockery of a right that generations of Americans have fought and died for, I say we actually DO prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, including the permanent revocation of their voting rights.

  • WIpatriot

    I read Ms. Stephens\’ story months ago. She was right, the Voter ID Act was a bad idea, but everyone was so sold on the Republican party\’s assertion that it was only about showing ID, when it was a lot more than that.

    The Voter ID Act conflicts with existing state statute and therefore should be repealed. Allowing college ID cards as a form of eligibility to vote was just another Republican sell-out, just like the watered down conceal carry bill. Anything to appease the left, so you can get reelected.

    And about those recalls, good luck for sure, you\’re going to need all the help you can get, but you won\’t get it from anyone I know.

    Yes Lauren, I can hear you now! Don\’t be afraid to keep up the good fight.

  • Bob

    \”May be prosecuted\” ???

    for god\’s sake, vote fraud in Wisconsin is rampant. Vote fraud is a felony, they should be cuffed and stuffed at our earliest convenience.

    These people have stolen elections in Wisconsin for at least 40 years.
    time to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.