Ballot Facebook photo results in felony charge in Wisconsin

Oct 31, 2022, 10:36 AM | Updated: 10:50 am

PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man accused of posting his marked election ballot on social media has been charged with a felony that carries possible incarceration if he’s convicted in what a prosecutor calls a “test case.”

Paul Buzzell, 52, of Mequon, appeared in Ozaukee County Circuit Court Monday where a judge found probable cause to proceed with the case and set a $500 signature bond.

According to a criminal complaint, Buzzell, a Mequon-Thiensville School Board member, posted a photo of his completed April ballot on his Facebook page. It resulted in a voter fraud charge that includes a maximum 3 ½ years behind bars and up to $10,000 in fines upon conviction.

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol, a Republican, says he is trying to use the criminal complaint to resolve an issue.

“You could say it’s a test case,” Gerol said. “The best thing that could come of this would be an appellate decision as to whether it violates the First Amendment or not.”

There have been contradicting court rulings in other states following the 2016 election, including in New Hampshire where a federal judge held that a state law barring an individual’s right to publish their ballot violated the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that ruling.

Wisconsin law says it’s illegal for anyone to show a marked ballot to anyone else or to place a mark on a ballot that identifies it as that person’s ballot. The state Senate in 2020 passed a bill to legalize the taking of so-called ballot selfies, but it died in the Assembly. County election clerks opposed changing the law, saying the ban is intended to protect ballot secrecy. Neighboring Michigan changed its law in 2019 to legalize ballot selfies.

Candidates for office in Wisconsin and others have sporadically posted photos of their completed ballots over the years, in apparent violation of the law, but charges were not brought.

Gerol said that while the felony doesn’t necessarily fit the behavior, a prosecutor can’t choose the penalties to apply. That’s up to legislators.

“There’s greater flexibility to resolve cases after they’re charged when the parties might agree to a different statute to plead to for the sake of resolution,” Gerol told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Mequon police contacted the Republican businessman about the post based on citizen complaints.

“Buzzell stated that his understanding was that it was not illegal to post a photo of a ballot with his name on it,” the complaint stated.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 15.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - An election worker verifies a ballot on a screen inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office...
Associated Press

Arizona counties face deadline to certify 2022 election

Six Arizona counties must decide Monday whether to certify 2022 election results amid pressure from some Republicans not to officially approve a vote count that had Democrats winning for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide races.
9 hours ago
FILE - Meta's logo can be seen on a sign at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on No...
Associated Press

Irish watchdog fines Meta 265M euros in latest privacy case

LONDON (AP) — Irish regulators slapped Facebook parent Meta with a 265 million-euro ($277 million) fine Monday, the company’s latest punishment for breaching strict European Union data privacy rules. The Data Protection Commission said Meta Platforms infringed sections of the EU rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, that require technical and organizational measures […]
9 hours ago
Associated Press

The Righting deciphers conservative media for outsiders

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly six years into monitoring the content of conservative media outlets for his website and newsletter The Righting, Howard Polskin hasn’t lost the capacity for surprise. Case in point: when Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential candidacy, and many of his long-time media allies let fly with anger and insults. Two […]
9 hours ago
This photo shows Charles Graves dressed as Santa Claus in Austin, Texas on on Sept. 3, 2022. Graves...
Associated Press

Santa’s back in town with inflation, inclusion on his mind

NEW YORK (AP) — Don’t look for plastic partitions or faraway benches when visiting Santa Claus this year. The jolly old elf is back, pre-pandemic style, and he’s got some pressing issues on his mind. Santa booker HireSanta.com has logged a 30% increase in demand this Christmas season over last year, after losing about 15% […]
9 hours ago
FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and wife Gisele arrive to vote in Braddock, Pa, Tuesday...
Associated Press

Pennsylvania campaign wildcard Fetterman turns to governing

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — When John Fetterman goes to Washington in January as one of the Senate’s new members, he’ll bring along an irreverent style from Pennsylvania that extends from his own personal dress code — super casual — to hanging marijuana flags outside his current office in the state Capitol. Pennsylvania’s unique lieutenant governor, […]
9 hours ago
Associated Press

This Week: Consumer confidence, consumer spending, jobs data

A look at some of the key business events and economic indicators upcoming this week: CONFIDENCE CHECK The Conference Board delivers its latest index of U.S. consumer confidence Tuesday. Economists expect the reading fell in November to 98. That would follow a reading of 102.5 in October. A reading of 90 or better reflects a […]
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Ballot Facebook photo results in felony charge in Wisconsin