Wingard admits failing to report felony

T.A. Barnhart

Rep Matt Wingard has provided plenty of blogging fodder here at BlueOregon. Today, during a hearing of the House Rules Committee on which he sits, he copped to knowing about felonies — and not reporting them.

Wingard has been caught plagiarizing on the House floor, using campaign finances for personal purposes and hitting his son in the head with a screwdriver (misdemeanor assault). Through all these misadventures, he’s never hesitated to attack those bringing the charges and to make up his own facts. But his own big mouth is the petard by which he has been hoisted. The audio follows — available from the Legislature’s website — but the key statement is: “People close to me have done that.”

“That” is completing a vote-by-mail ballot that another person has signed. “That” is a felony, and Wingard has witnessed the felony and, from the evidence reported, not done a thing about it.

Here is the audio. A transcription is at end of the story. (Warning: it may not play in Safari. It does in Chrome/Firefox.)

Matt Wingard, just a few weeks ago, swore to uphold the Constitution of the State of Oregon. He swore to “faithfully discharge the duties” of his office. Not reporting a felony is a crime for any citizen; for someone holding an elected office, it’s a double-dip of dereliction. It’s possible that the crime or crimes (Wingard’s statement indicates multiple offenses) occurred before he took office. There were several elections using vote-by-mail prior to that time. But if these felonies were perpetrated after Wingard took office and he did not report them, he has committed both a crime himself and a violation of legislative ethics.

And given the way Wingard attacks the county clerks and their support of vote-by-mail, you would think he would be the first to turn in someone abusing the system. At the very least, you know he wants to prove what a corrupt system it is.

Listen to the entirety of Wingard’s questioning (it’s about 10 minutes long and starts about the 40-minute mark, and you’ll see he has one goal: demonstrate that vote-by-mail is not merely susceptible to fraud but would probably be proven to be riddled with criminality if the county clerks would but check into it. His suggestion for finding out?

County clerks, suggest Wingard, should conduct “random, scientific” audits of voters — and yes, he does mean go knock on doors to verify identity and nationality. (For a guy who has no trouble attacking the proven science of climate change, his promotion of the science of statistics seems comic — or malevolent.) And once the county clerk offices were conducting door-to-door checks on voters in such a manner, who would be among the first to condemn the intimidation tactics of the clerks?


Anyway, this merits an ethics complaint. It would be better to come from someone in his district but they keep returning him to Salem, so I’m not holding my breath that his admission to committing a felony will matter to them anymore than did his confession to hitting his child.

But he’s either a criminal who is willing cover-up felonies he believe are undermining Oregon’s democracy, or he’s a liar. He needs to tell his colleagues which.

To get to the audio archive: Go to the Legislature's Audio/Video web page and click the following links:


Unidentified county clerk: In the years I’ve been involved in Oregon elections … the number of fraudulent claims made by any family member, even in a divorce: I’m not aware of even one time. And divorces are not always nice. That is a felonious offence, and I imagine it would be raised at some time. Regardless of the system, including the polling place system where people have been paid to come and sign a poll book [example of father & son who worked their way up through the state to prove that the polling system could not stop anyone who wanted to break election laws] … Hopefully we still live in a society where the presumption is people are telling the truth, they are telling the truth, and those who don’t will make a mistake and will be found and prosecuted.

Wingard: Just to be clear on that, that practice is not that uncommon in this state. I’ve actually read letters to the editor in which somebody has bragged they are doing that for their entire family. People close to me have done that. My own anecdotal evidence is this is not a rare occurence. in our vote by mail system. (emphasis added)

  • (Show?)

    I know of exactly one instance where a wife signed a ballot for her husband.

    And he got a notice from county elections indicating a problem with the signature. He went in, signed his ballot. The system worked.

  • (Show?)

    I do wonder whether "not reporting a felony is a crime" in Oregon as you state. I'm not a lawyer, but a internet search turns up (here) "The most familiar and popular use of the term misprision describes the failure to report a crime." And "Almost every state has rejected the crime of misprision of felony. Thus, persons are under no duty to report a crime. One policy reason for rejecting misprision is that the crime is vague and difficult to apply to real situations. Another reason is that the crime is seen as an unacceptable encroachment on civil freedom." So I wonder if you are accurate?

  • (Show?)

    I know people who have done this too but I didn't realize it was a felony.

    Are there any parameters involving people who fill out their ballots together or people who for some reason have trouble writing? Is it possible to authorize someone else to cast a ballot?

    • (Show?)

      Any citizen can contact the county clerk and request help for someone else. The county will send out an impartial person to help someone fill out their ballot. :)

    • (Show?)

      I don't know the exact parameters, but clearly the fraud that the law envisions is someone completing a ballot without the knowledge or approval of that voter.

      Helping granny fill the bubbles isn't what we're talking about.

  • (Show?)

    I've never heard of not reporting a felony being a crime, except for mandatory reporters of child abuse -- doctors, lawyers, social workers, etc.

    • (Show?)

      Well there is the fact that not reporting a murder is the crime of accessory after the fact, and is tantamount to support of the crime in the eyes of the law.

  • (Show?)

    Whether or not failing to report is a crime or not (and whether or not a DA would choose to prosecute or not), the fact is that Rep. Wingard is saying a) this issue is really, really important to him, but b) not so important that he blew the whistle when he witnessed it.

    • (Show?)

      Kari, I agree with you, and this article would make a better point if it focused on the potential political pitfalls of Wingard's behavior, rather than a potentially libelous claim of criminal behavior.

  • (Show?)

    I hate to be supporting Matt Wingard, but I promise my support will only be lukewarm.

    It's a bit of a stretch to say that he's admitted to "witness(ing) a felony." He's saying he's known people who have committed a felony, but that doesn't mean he witnessed it first-hand.

    What is valid here, though, is to put some political heat on Rep. Wingard. If he sees voter fraud as a big issue, why hasn't he reported the cases he knows about to the proper authorities?

    It's time for these Hippos to get called on their B.S.

  • (Show?)

    I read this post, and the transcript you pasted in, and I still am not sure what the issue is. You say:

    “That” is completing a vote-by-mail ballot that another person has signed.

    So if my son and I vote together, discuss the races, and I fill in the bubbles on his ballot according to what he decides (which may be exactly the same as I voted or different in some races) and then my son signs the ballot - have I not "completed a vote-by-mail ballot that another person has signed?"

    Is that a felony? If so, put me in jail. And Wingard too, because he knows me and is therefore guilty of not reporting a felony.

    • (Show?)

      "If so, put me in jail."

      Only if we get to watch the perp walk too.

    • (Show?)

      no, Rob, Wingard was clear: he knows people who filled in ballots, placed them in envelopes signed by other people, and then submitted them to the Clerk. he knows people who committed voter fraud. he was specific on the point.

      • (Show?)

        The problem, T.A., is that it's NOT clear what he knows and how he knows it, and it's not clear from his statement that he has witnessed the behavior you're describing.

        And, again, I think you've made a presumption of a legal duty to report criminal behavior that I doubt exists.

  • (Show?)

    I'm no fan of Wingard, but I think I'd take it a bit slower in accusing him of a crime even in the hypothetical sense. In my opinion undoubtedly Wingard has not shown himself to be a champion of ethics. Legislators are real citizens out there in the real world as well and most of them know a fairly wide circle. Undoubtedly they all know people that violate laws since in this society you could probably face criminal prosecution for washing off an oil paint brush in your sink let alone the huge number of your All-American mom and pop pot smokers. Do you reallt expect all of them to run to the police station and report everything they know? Get real.

  • (Show?)

    I recall a Curry County Commissioner who signed his wife's ballot because she was out of town. He got caught by the checks in the system, was indicted, convicted and had to resign his seat on the commission because he had been convicted of a felony. I don't recall his name, but the Elections Division will. I have not met Wingard, but I get the impression he chronically makes things up. I'd like more evidence than just his say-so.

connect with blueoregon