By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — It appears “Mr. Ethics,” Scot Ross, just broke Wisconsin’s election law.
Ross, a liberal and highly partisan member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, tweeted a photograph of his absentee ballot. That’s a no-no under Wisconsin elections law, and Mr. Ethics ought to know that.
“Tossed my Wisconsin absentee ballot in the mailbox today. In addition to @Savison_C, I voted for @underlyforwi and for pro-term limits advisory referendum,” Ross wrote in the tweet, accompanied by the pic of his ballot, posted late Sunday afternoon.
Ross pulled the tweet sometime later.
Wisconsin election law is pretty clear on the subject. The statute under Election Fraud states anyone who “Shows his or her marked ballot to many person or places a mark upon the ballot so it is identifiable as his or her ballot” has committed a Class I Felony, punishable by up to 3 1/2 years in state prison, with fines up to $10,000 or both.
Wisconsin is among 18 states that prohibit voters from posting a photo of their completed ballot.
Last year, the state Senate passed a bill allowing voters to take selfies with their marked election ballots, but the bill died in the Assembly. Former Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) said voters have a First Amendment right to show their ballot.
The Wisconsin County Clerk Association registered against the bill. They warned lawmakers that making it commonplace to show a marked ballot could lead to employers, unions or others forcing people to prove they voted a certain way to receive a benefit or avoid being punished. They also voiced concern about how people legally taking photos in a polling location could infringe on the confidentiality rights of other voters.
An election law expert contacted by Empower Wisconsin said legalizing the practice would create the same problems as so-called “walking-around money” in poor neighborhoods where party and candidate pushers have handed out cash to those who can show they voted “correctly.”
Ross, a vulgar liberal firebrand, has found himself in trouble over the years for his nasty tweets.
Former Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) nominated Ross last year to the Ethics Commission, the state panel that oversees campaign laws. To conservatives, Ross’ appointment to the commission felt like a middle finger parting shot from Shilling — and an open assault on the concept of “Ethics.”
“The mission of the Ethics Commission is to promote and strengthen the faith and confidence of the people of Wisconsin in their government, support the operation of open and responsible government, preserve the integrity of the governmental decision-making process, and protect the rights of individuals through the administration of Wisconsin’s campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws …”
Ethics Commission Administrator Daniel Carlton told Empower Wisconsin he could not comment on Ross’ tweet, that the matter was the purview of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Reid Magney, spokesman for the Elections Commission, did not return Empower Wisconsin’s email seeking comment.