The village of Summit and village and city of Pewaukee are among communities where 17-year-olds voted illegally in the 2016 Wisconsin spring primary election, according to a report by the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
The report, which was released Tuesday, March 14, said that 17-year-olds wrongly thought they could vote in the April 5, 2016, primary if they turned 18 before the general election in November 2016. Wisconsin state law requires a voter to be 18 to vote in any election.
Three 17-year-olds were found to have voted illegally in the city of Pewaukee and one each in the village of Pewaukee and village of Summit.
In an email, Pewaukee City Clerk Kelly Tarczewski wrote that the 17-year-olds had filled out Sections 9-11 of the Wisconsin voter registration form that said they were 18 on or before Election Day. She said that poll workers had to verify proof of residency as required by the voter registration form, and accepted numerous forms for it.
Summit Village Clerk Debra Michael said that media reports from one of the presidential candidates had caused confusion, causing people to come to her and ask about it.
"I had other people come in and ask about it, and we told them at that time, 'No, you're not allowed to vote in this election. You have to be 18 to vote in any election in Wisconsin,'" Michael said. "You can register when you're 17 if you're not going to vote until the November election, but you can't vote."
Michael said it was a busy election for April, since it was the presidential primary.
"For whatever reason, it was just missed; it wasn't picked up, and he was allowed to vote," Michael said, who referred the case to the Waukesha County District Attorney's Office.
District Attorney Susan Opper said in an email that voting without the necessary qualifications is a Class I felony. She also said it is a Class I felony for an election official to permit registration or accept a vote from a person the official knows is not qualified. Opper added that her office is not pursuing any charges in the cases from last spring's election.
Pewaukee Village Clerk Chaz Schumacher also forwarded the case of the 17-year-old voter in that community to the District Attorney's Office.
"As soon as it comes to light, we make a point of making sure that those who need to know, know," Schumacher said. She also said that she was made aware of the illegally cast ballot soon after the primary.
Schumacher said the election was a busy one, and that it would be easy for someone to get flustered in that situation. She also said that voters have to certify on the voter registration application that they are 18 on the day of or before the election.
"The onus really does become on the person who is registering to vote, and not necessarily on the poll workers," Schumacher said. "Yes, we are supposed to check that, but we aren't the ones saying that they are 18. It's the actual voter themselves, and that's why those cases get turned over to the DA's office."
To prevent similar issues, Schumacher, Tarczewski and Michael all implemented procedures with their poll workers in the November election. Schumacher said she increased her training with poll workers to ensure they understood what they were looking for. She and Tarczewski also said they would have signs posted during future elections reminding voters of the requirements. Michael said she had those signs out during the November election.
The town and village of Eagle also reported a 17-year-old in each community having voted illegally. The village and town of Mukwonago, the city of Brookfield, Muskego, New Berlin, and the city of Waukesha were also named by Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Novack as having similar reports.