Dozens of people may have committed election fraud by falsely claiming to be "indefinitely confined" to their homes so they could vote without having to show a photo ID...even as their social media accounts showed them out, about, and decidedly not confined.
They attended jazz concerts, parties, and weddings, went to work, and even traveled out of state. One woman even has a Facebook profile picture that includes the phrase "I cannot stay home, I'm a nurse."
They are among the 171,900 Wisconsinites who in the past year suddenly claimed indefinite confinement--a status that allows them to vote absentee by mail without having to show photo identification.
In March, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell and Milwaukee County Clerk George Christensen both issued guidance indicating that all voters should mark themselves as "indefinitely confined" because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I urge all voters who request a ballot and do not have the ability or equipment to upload a valid ID to indicate that they are indefinitely confined," Christensen wrote. "Voters should not be reluctant to check the box that says they are indefinitely confined because this is a pandemic and this option exists in state law to help preserve everyone’s right to vote."
"[All voters] may indicate as needed that they are indefinitely confined due to illness," urged McDonnell.
This advice was in direct violation of Wisconsin Statute 6.86(2)(a), which provides that electors may only list themselves as "indefinitely confined because of age, physical illness or infirmity" or if they are "disabled for an indefinite period."
Crucially, those who do "may, in lieu of providing proof of identification, submit with his or her absentee ballot a statement signed by the same individual who witnesses voting of the ballot which contains the name and address of the elector and verifies that the name and address are correct."
The Republican Party of Wisconsin immediately recognized this as an attempt to circumvent Wisconsin's Voter ID law through a loophole and petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to intervene.
"Without this court’s intervention, the upcoming election will take place under two sets of different rules—one for voters in Dane County, and one for voters in the rest of the state," the GOP argued in its lawsuit.
Rick Esenberg, a constitutional lawyer and President of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, told the Wisconsin State Journal that McDonnell's advice could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters.
"They’re going to be improperly registered to vote or improperly cast an absentee ballot and if somebody challenges that ballot down the line, they’re probably going to win," he said.
A unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court confirmed that McDonnell's and Christensen's "advice was legally incorrect" and potentially dangerous because "voters may be misled to exercise their right to vote in ways that are inconsistent with Wis. Stat. 6.86(2)."
More than a hundred thousand apparently were. In 2019, the MacIver Institute found, 72,000 Wisconsinites had claimed indefinite confinement. By the Spring Election, that number had risen to 122,131. An additional 49,769 claimed indefinite confinement ahead of this month's Presidential Election. That is a 238 percent increase in indefinite confinements in a year.
Obviously, most of those voters were not actually indefinitely confined, including the several dozen "The Dan O'Donnell Show" discovered. One woman claimed indefinite confinement but posted videos of her well-attended wedding on July 13th. Another posted a picture of herself and her boyfriend at Devil's Lake State Park. Another posted in early August about visiting Hobby Lobby and going to church with others.
"Yesterday, I headed to Hobby Lobby with some friends, looking for items to recreate a space at church," she wrote. "Today, I’m thankful that we can still choose to gather together and worship the God who still holds it all together. I encourage you to stay connected to people during this time. Life is better together!"
One man posted a picture of himself on a bike ride in October. Another visited "Vern's cabin" in September. Another posted a selfie on a trip to the store in April.
"Feeling safe going to the store thank you," he wrote.
Each of these voters may have committed election fraud, which under Wisconsin Statute 12.13 can involve making "false statements to the municipal clerk, board of election commissioners, or any other election official whether or not under oath." Since a declaration of indefinite confinement is a statement to a local election official or board that one is either "disabled" or confined to their home due to "age, physical illness or infirmity," a false declaration could be a Class I felony punishable by 3.5 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
This also means that both the Dane and Milwaukee County Clerks were encouraging hundreds of thousands of voters to potentially commit election fraud by claiming that they themselves were confined to their homes because of "physical illness" (i.e. COVID-19) even if they were not actually sick. The Wisconsin Elections Commission declined to punish either McDonnell or Christensen or rebuke them in any way.
Sources indicate that upwards of 20,000 voters who registered for the first time marked themselves as indefinitely confined in apparent violation of both Wisconsin law and Wisconsin Elections Commission guidelines. These voters, then, would have been able to cast a ballot without ever having to show photo identification to prove that they are who they claim to be.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin and Donald Trump Presidential Campaign are both investigating how widespread this abuse of indefinite confinement was and how many voters may have knowingly committed election fraud by making false statements on their absentee ballots.