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Prosecution doubtful of area 17-year-old voters

At least 60 teens illegally voted in Wis. in primary

posted March 16, 2017 2:09 a.m. | updated March 16, 2017 8:40 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Chris Vetter. bio | email

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District attorneys in west-central Wisconsin don’t have any plans at this time to prosecute 17-year-olds who illegally voted in the April 2016 primary.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission announced this week there were at least 60 instances of teens illegally voting statewide, with one case in each of Clark, Dunn, Barron, Chippewa and Pierce counties. On Tuesday, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne indicated he may prosecute those teens who illegally voted.

Clark County District Attorney Kerra Stumbris said she was alerted last July of the illegal vote after the county clerk sent the information to her office. Stumbris said the 17-year-old female was under the belief that she could vote in April if she turned 18 by the November election. However, that is not Wisconsin law.

“I made the decision not to prosecute,” Stumbris said. “I didn’t think she was intending to defraud anyone. I didn’t feel I could hold her criminally responsible for this activity.”

Stumbris reviewed the voter form the girl had read and saw how a person might believe they were eligible to vote, even though that wasn’t the case.

“It was a misunderstanding,” Stumbris said. “The form she filled out asked if she was 18 years old at the time of the election.”

Chippewa County Judge Steve Gibbs was district attorney throughout 2016. He said he was informed of a 17-year-old who had voted, but Gibbs decided to not even have the case referred to his office for further review.

Chippewa County assistant district attorney Wade Newell, who will be appointed as district attorney on Monday, said he hasn’t seen any referrals.

“We would look at every case on a case-by-case basis,” Newell said.

Barron County District Attorney Angela Beranek said she also hasn’t seen any referrals of illegal voting. She was skeptical about whether she would prosecute one.

“We look at every individual case, and we look at the priorities of our office,” Beranek said. “It’s not high on our priority list right now.”

District attorneys in Dunn and Pierce County couldn’t be reached for comment.

Along with the 17-year-olds who voted, the Wisconsin Elections Commission report also indicated four other cases of fraudulent voting occurred in Eau Claire County.

In one case, a person voted in municipalities in both Eau Claire and Barron counties. In two cases, a person voted by absentee ballot but then also voted in person. In the last case, a convicted felon who is still being supervised by the Department of Corrections voted. Those four cases were reported in December and January.

Chippewa County did prosecute a case last year of a person who illegally voted in the April primary.

Nedi Ademi, 63, of Chippewa Falls pleaded no contest in October to disorderly conduct and was ordered to pay a $443 fine. Ademi said he is a native of Macedonia and is not a U.S. citizen. He had lived in the country for 31 years but had never attempted to vote before.

Contact: 715-723-0303, chris.vetter@ecpc.com