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Dozens of 17-year-olds reportedly voted illegally in last year’s Wisconsin primary

A report Monday from the Wisconsin Elections Commission found that dozens of 17-year-old voters illegally participated in Wisconsin's 2016 presidential primary in April. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Dozens of 17-year-old residents voted illegally in last year’s Wisconsin primary, a new state report shows.

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the teens erroneously believed they could cast ballots in the primary as long as they turned 18 before the November general election — a belief that might have arisen as a result of former Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ legal victory in Ohio allowing 17-year-old voters who turned 18 before Election Day to participate in the state’s primary.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won Wisconsin’s Republican primary and Sanders won the state’s Democratic primary. Ultimately, President Donald Trump emerged victorious over former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, marking the first time a Republican won the Badger State since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

In total, the commission found at least 60 cases of 17-year-olds voting in the April primary in 29 counties. However, the report did not determine whom the individuals voted for. The commission also concluded that no underage voters cast ballots in the general election.

Commission spokesman Reid Magney said the teenagers were likely just confused about their eligibility to vote in the primary, given it was legal in some other states. He also said election officials may not have understood the law or weren’t paying enough attention.

“It wasn't a case of anyone sneaking in,” he said. “It was a misunderstanding of the law.”

The report comes after Trump called for a “major investigation” into potential voter fraud. While the president clearly won a majority in the Electoral College, he claimed alleged voter fraud may have cost him the popular vote, which Clinton won by a sizable margin. The president believes there were 3 million to 5 million votes cast illegally in the general election.

A Gallup poll from August 2016 found that 52 percent of Republicans believe voter fraud is a “major problem,” compared to only 26 percent of Democrats. Similarly, according to a Washington Post poll from October, 60 percent of Republicans believe illegal immigrants and other ineligible people vote in “meaningful amounts.” Less than 25 percent of Democrats feel the same way.

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