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Wisconsin Rapids mayor posts photo of ballot, violates election law

by
Zach Vruwink
This is the photo that generated the election fraud complaint against Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink.  Law says you cannot publish a completed ballot.
Zach Vruwink

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAU) -- The Wisconsin Rapids Mayor is accused of violating election laws. Zach Vruwink had posted photos to his Facebook account in February showing that he had already voted. The photos showed his voter number, the clerk log showing it was his number, and a photo of his completed ballot.

That’s where the problem lies. According to the Government Accountability Board, candidates are not supposed to publish photos of their completed ballot. The state statute on election fraud 12.13 (1) (f) states that it is a violation if the elector "shows his or her marked ballot to any person or places a mark upon the ballot so it is identifiable as his or her ballot."

Vruwink told WSAU he was not aware of the law, and removed the photo from Facebook Wednesday afternoon.  “I pulled the photo down immediately, and then I also called the Government Accountability Board to self-report and let them know that the photo had been taken down, and that I had just become aware of the law that was related to marked ballots and taking a photo of them.”

City Council candidate Steve Abrahamson filed the complaint against Vruwink with the District Attorney. Vruwink says District Attorney Craig Lambert has received the complaint but hasn’t reviewed it yet.  “My understanding here is that the District Attorney here in Wood County has received the complaint. That’s as far as I know.”

The race for Wisconsin Rapids Mayor has been hotly contested. Former Mayor and Vruwink supporter Mary Jo Carson is trying to get the job back, with the support of third-place primary candidate Steven Koth, Jr. The one-term incumbent is hoping to focus on the city’s issues until April 1st.  “It’s very enlightening to know that law and so, I responded appropriately and definitely look forward to pursuing the campaign and making it about the issues.”

Kevin Kennedy is the GAB’s general counsel, and he was not available to comment today, but he has commented on this issue before.  Kennedy said in a 2012 statement, “In an age of social media where some people share pictures online of everyday things they do, that voters should not take pictures of their completed ballots, let alone post them Facebook or Twitter. Under Wisconsin’s election fraud law, it is a Class I felony to intentionally show your marked ballot to any person,” adding, “Don’t tweet your ballot.”

The Government Accountability Board is not aware of anyone being prosecuted in the past for this violation, which has happened before. Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate and St. Croix County Republican Party Chair Jesse Garza did this in 2012. The GAB says if someone is convicted of this class “I” felony, they could be sentenced to a maximum of 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines.

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