Widower gets misdemeanor for voting

MADISON, Wis. – A man said yesterday that he voted in his late wife’s name in November to fulfill her dying wish to cast a ballot for Barack Obama. Stephen Wroblewski, 64, of Milwaukee, said he plans to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of making a false statement to obtain an absentee ballot. His wife, Jacqueline Wroblewski, was a veteran Democratic activist and former poll worker who died of lung cancer in August. Her husband of 25 years said he cast an absentee ballot in her name and also voted under his own name. ‘She was such a Democrat and saw there was finally going to be a new administration. She really wanted to live long enough to vote,’ Wroblewski said in a phone interview. ‘But I still don’t know why I did it. A grief counselor told me it was just a matter of keeping her close to me and not letting go.’ The absentee ballot was not counted. A volunteer poll worker who was processing absentee ballots in Milwaukee the night of the election happened to be a family friend. ‘Out of 35,000 ballots, she pulls that one and blurts out that she knew my wife and that she was dead,’ Wroblewski said. He added that his wife would have been appalled about what he did because she ‘was a stickler for the rules.’ Wroblewski was charged last month; a copy of the complaint was released yesterday. He is set to appear in court next month. The charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison, but Assistant Milwaukee County District Attorney Bruce Landgraf said Wroblewski is unlikely to face jail time given his lack of a criminal record. Prosecutors previously declined to charge a Milwaukee woman who turned herself in on Election Day after casting two absentee ballots, but Landgraf said this case was different. He said Wroblewski’s acts ‘were designed to have the effect of voting twice in the election,’ and that he turned himself in only after learning that his wife’s ballot was being challenged. Wroblewski’s attorney, Jim Blask, said he had advised his client to take the case to trial. Jurors would have been sympathetic to Wroblewski, who was grieving and not thinking clearly at the time, he said. ‘Anyone who has ever been married realizes that sometimes you do things you otherwise wouldn’t do because she’s your wife,’ Blask said. ‘You might sign her checks or make purchases on her behalf. That’s how Stephen felt toward Jackie.’ But Wroblewski said he simply wants to end the embarrassing episode. He said he spent 12 hours in jail after he was booked on the charge last month and worries about potentially going back. ‘I just wish they’d drop this whole thing,’ said Wroblewski, a retired sales representative for Time Warner. ‘The vote didn’t even count.’ Six people have been charged with election-related crimes in Milwaukee County stemming from the presidential election. Dozens of other cases remain under investigation. A Government Accountability Board survey of district attorneys released last week showed that only two other election cases were known to have been filed statewide.