La Crosse’s 16 potential voter fraud cases reveal an unintentional mistake

La Crosse County DA says 16 voters used the wrong address causing the city to flag them as potential voter fraud

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The city of La Crosse referred 16 voters in La Crosse County to the district attorney’s office for potential voter fraud. Voter fraud happens, but it’s a pretty rare issue district attorneys deal with. Most cases revolve around one issue.

County leaders say voters need to provide their correct addresses to save them an intimidating phone call after they vote. Wisconsin election officials found 27 potential cases of voter fraud out of 3.3 million votes during the November general election in Wisconsin. Even though it’s small, voter fraud is a big deal according to La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke.

“It is a felony because you’re basically canceling someone else’s vote,” Gruenke said.

The city of La Crosse represents a big piece of potential fraud. Here’s why — the city flagged 22 people who all have one thing in common. They all share the same address, 317 4th Street S. A simple google maps search takes you to a UPS Store downtown.

It sounds fishy but Gruenke said these people accidentally used their mailing address when they registered to vote.

“It turns out that most of them were retired couples that used the UPS Store as like a PO. Box so when they were vacationing – say down in Arizona they would get the mail forwarded to them from the UPS Store instead of their actual residence,” Gruenke said.

La Crosse city clerk Nikki Elsen said it’s easy for election officials to miss these addresses on election day, but the system caught them after the fact.

“These mailing addresses look like physical addresses,” Elsen said.

Some of these people didn’t vote, but 16 of them did, however, the number of potential cases of voter fraud will shrink because these people didn’t intend to write the wrong address down. These 16 people were able to prove they live in La Crosse so their votes did count. However, city officials say they have to reregister with their correct address or be deactivated from the rolls.

“We didn’t see any intentional fraud or attempt to, for example, vote twice or vote in the wrong place,” Gruenke said.

In other words, these people are off the hook, but it’s a good lesson for the next election. People should vote where they live unless they plan to return to the address where they are currently registered — like a college student for example.

“Where you lay your head at night,” Elsen said. “Where is your home?”

Understanding how to vote can save voters some unnecessary stress.

“Make sure you’re filling out those forms right to prevent people from knocking on your door and asking you why there’s a discrepancy and why the address doesn’t look right,” Gruenke said.

Elsen says improvements to the election system in the future could help them flag these addresses in real-time before people vote. However, the fact the system catches these issues means the system does work.

It’s best for people to visit their local clerk’s websites for questions on voter registration and polling locations. Every state is different so those websites are the best resource.