As Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans continue to argue over this week's recall election, many of them are unaware that officials from both parties were accused of breaking the same election law. Because their actions involved Facebook, the Class 1 felony could be considered an Internet crime, but no charges are expected to be filed because neither of the accused officials realized the law existed.
Both officials are chairmen for their political parties, one at the state level and the other at a regional level. Both voted by absentee ballot, after which they proudly displayed images of their ballots on Facebook. And both commented on their own photos, saying they were proud to have voted for their favored candidates. One of the officials also thanked voters for participating in the recall process and resulting election.
The problem, election officials politely reminded them, was that it's illegal in Wisconsin to show a completed ballot to anyone, let alone everyone on the Internet. According to the state Government Accountability Board, the intent of the law is to prevent residents from selling their votes and then showing the ballots as proof that they voted as requested. Breaking the law is a felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Both party officials accused of breaking the law were apparently surprised to learn of it and promised to quickly remove the Facebook posts showing their ballots. Neither is likely to be charged, but their actions serve as a good reminder of the law for other voters. With recent pushes to adopt stricter election laws, such as the voter identification requirements being considered in several states, it's important to be aware of what's legal or prohibited before and after casting a vote.
The same applies to other areas of the law, particularly white collar crime. As in this instance, many times people break laws without even being aware those laws existed. If you're faced with such an accusation, consulting with an attorney experienced in white collar crime defense can explain the charges and possibly help you avoid prosecution.
Source: CBS 5, "Wis. officials unknowingly break law with Facebook," Dinesh Ramde, May 25, 2012