No meat in 'voter fraud' report, but rabid GOP pack howls | WisCommunity

No meat in 'voter fraud' report, but rabid GOP pack howls

Those who would like to reduce, inhibit, prevent, discourage and suppress the vote in Wisconsin’s urban (read Democratic) areas are in full cry over a Milwaukee Police Department report after investigating how the city conducted the November 2004 election.

Charlie Sykes and Brian Fraley were first to the hunt, but the pack of rabid right-wing commentators won’t be far behind. It has already made National Review online. (Sykes links to National Review, but it links back to his site to access the report. So guess where National Review got it.)

Sykes calls it “a bombshell,” and asks:

will the JS, the mayor, and Democrats in Madison continue to deny that we have a major problem with voter fraud?

We should certainly hope so, because the report from MPD’s Special Investigations Unit says nothing of the kind.

Saying “mistakes were made” does not equal “widespread voter fraud was committed.” Sykes and NR make much of this sentence, in the introduction:

"The reports of more ballots cast than voters recorded were found to be true."

That was “found to be true” about two years ago, and attributed to procedural and clerical error, not fraud. This is not new information, as anyone who read the Journal Sentinel in 2004-2005 can attest.

Even the JS, which was so obsessed it killed forests full of trees to report on voting problems in 2005, was dismissive in its online story:

The report comes long after criminal investigations by the Milwaukee County district attorney's office and the U.S. attorney's office have been closed. Thus, instead of providing further guidance to prosecutors, the 67-page document may be more useful to election officials in identifying problems with the system heading into this fall's presidential election.

Neil Albrecht, the deputy director of the city Election Commission, said the report "validates" the efforts by a city task force, appointed by Mayor Tom Barrett, to review election procedures. All recommendations of that task force have been implemented, he said.

U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic has said investigators found no evidence of widespread fraud. About a dozen cases, including felons who illegally voted or people who allegedly voted twice, were prosecuted, with spotty results.

Anyone who actually reads the 67-page will discover that the investigation uncovered virtually no evidence of fraud, but a lot of evidence of sloppy procedures and mistakes by the Elections Commission and poll workers.

 The report says time and again that there is little or no proof of fraud, citing “the laxity of poll workers” and procedural errors. Investigations of specific cases of alleged abuse, including double voting, found that most could easily be explained – clerical errors, transposed addresses, twins with the same birth date, fathers and sons where workers confused Junior and Senior.

 A handful of cases resulted in charges, and prosecution of those brought mixed results. But I believe we are talking about fewer convictions than you can count on the fingers of one hand.

The report, in several instances, points out the potential for fraud, and how someone could vote more than once. But it doesn’t offer any proof that it actually happened.

It makes some suggestions for tightening up procedures, and for better training of election workers. Many changes and improvements already have been made. There is a new Elections Commissioner, new training for poll workers, and new procedures in place. It has, after all, been more than three years since the election that this report covers. Milwaukee learned from some of its 2004 mistakes, which will not be repeated in 2008.

 I worked at the polls in November 2004, and again last week for the presidential primary. I hadn’t been an election worker in between.

The process was much smoother and better organized this time. We had all had recent training sessions. Some senior city employees spent the day at polling places, which helped the over-burdened chief inspector.

 It all went very well. But I’d be the last to say it went perfectly. In the press of handling a couple of thousand voters, and registering a couple of hundred, there was undoubtedly an error here and there. A ballot wasn’t initialed by two poll workers as required. The election worker didn’t sign the back of the voter registration card. One person may have voted in the wrong ward. But there were no big problems, and certainly no widespread fraud, if any.

The Republican party, of course, is already using the report as another reason to call for a photo ID requirement on election day.

The police report does not call for that, although the GOP claims it does. Requiring a photo ID of every voter who casts a ballot in November would be a nightmare, resulting in long lines, delays and chaos in urban areas. Which would be fine with the GOP.

What the police did recommend was eliminating election day registration – another Republican goal. Without on-site registration on election day, the GOP may have won Wisconsin in the last two presidential elections.

 The report says that ending same-day registration could eliminate

“a large percentage of fraud or the appearance of fraudulent voting.”

The “appearance of fraudulent voting” comes from clerical and procedural mistakes, as this investigation discovered. The way to eliminate those appearances is to fix the system, not disenfranchise people.

In Wisconsin, the goal has always been to increase voter turnout by making it easier to register and vote. Republicans want to make it harder and reduce turnout. The report recommends that if election day registration remains in place that a photo ID should be required to register , not to vote.

What that doesn’t recognize is that everyone who has a Wisconsin driver’s license is already required to use it to register, and to use other documents to prove their current residency only when the address on the license does not match the voter’s current address.

I registered voters for five hours last week and saw very few who did not produce a driver’s license or some other form of photo ID. (In those rare instances, they are allowed to give the last four digits of their Social Security number.)

The police report ends with this gratuitous observation:

After 18 months of investigation the Task Force believes there was fraud committed in the 2004 election, but as one investigator stated, “I know I voted in the Election, but I can’t be certain it counted.”

That is pure, unadulterated crap and does not belong in what purports to be a serious report.

The investigators have already stated that they cannot prove any widespread fraud, much as they would like to.

So that statement, like Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet, is “just a hunch, ma’am, just a hunch.”

After 18 months, the people of Milwaukee deserve better.


Just one example from the report of gross exaggeration and a problem that, if it ever existed, has been rectified:

Under the current system, a motivated group, i.e. abortion, gun control, school choice could flood a local race and determine the outcome because it is apparent that the Milwaukee Election Commission allows anyone who shows up a polling location, even when listing an address outside of the Ward or city, to vote. Page 18

Totally untrue. Having just worked at the polls registering new voters, I can tell you that procedure is to look up every voter's address in a directory to determine their aldermanic district and ward before any paperwork is even started to register them.


February 26, 2008 - 4:28pm