The Wisconsin Voter Fraud story reminds me of fractal patterns. As the grand design is revealed, very interesting things happen around the fringes.
Voter fraud in Wisconsin takes on many creative forms (everyone remember the "Bingo for Votes
" incident?), but the most obvious pattern to emerge in 2004 was the failure by election officials to verify the voters who registered at the polls on election day.
Election officials are required by law to mail postcards out to verify the addresses of these voters. In Milwaukee, about 8,300 more votes were cast than the number of people who were recorded as voting. Election officials say this was due mainly to problems with the same-day registration cards that were incomplete or illegible and therefore couldn't be send out. But a review of those records by the Milwaukee Journal
found more than 1,200 of the addresses on these cards were non-existent. (Hat tip: The American Mind
But it turns out that in some locations, election officials simply don't bother to send out the verification cards. The Journal Sentinel reported last week that the Richland Center clerk didn't send them out because everyone there knows everyone anyway. (Note to those hoping to commit voter fraud in future elections: take that busload of Chicagoans to Richland Center.)
In Racine, we've discovered that the city clerk, Carolyn Moskonas, failed to send out verification postcards to more than 3,000 people who registered on election day
. Moskonas said that there is no record of the city ever sending out verification cards, and added that there's no money in her budget to do it anyway.
Let's recall that in Wisconsin the 2004 Presidential election was decided by about 11,000 votes. The 2000 Presidential election was even closer, decided by around 6,000 votes. In this context, 3,000 unverified voters can make quite a bit of difference. And that's just 3,000 voters in Racine alone. Add in the totals from just Milwaukee and you've matched the margin of victory in 2004.
Today in an editorial, The Racine Journal Times writes
that address verification postcards are just a "partisan ploy" by Republicans intent on disenfranchising voters. After all, they reason, these voters had to bring proof of residency to the polling place in the form of an ID or a recent utility bill. In Wisconsin, even another registered voter can vouch for their residency. Therefore, says the Journal Times, their residency was already proven. (Because everyone knows that IDs and utility bills can't be faked. And having another voter vouch for your eligibility is proof beyond measure, right?)
But the fact is, too, that some voters, especially those on the low end of the income ladder, are more transient than others - they live in apartments or with relatives and not in a gated horse farm in Caledonia. They're more apt to move and, historically, they're more apt to vote Democratic -- and that's why they're targeted by [state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia] and other Republicans.
In Milwaukee, apparently 1,242 of them live on baseball diamonds, alleys, bridges, and billboards, causing even Lisa Artison, the executive director of Milwaukee's Election Commission to remark: “The results you obtained make it clear the new statewide voter system is very badly needed and long overdue.”
These efforts aren't about fairness, they're about harassment and disenfranchisement. What other reason to make vague threats of felony prosecutions and push to send district attorney offices on address checks?
Perhaps because failure to send out verification cards is a crime? Because to do anything else is an invitation to voter fraud? But the Journal Times
isn't interested in whether there was voter fraud.
The fact is that, despite the heated presidential election last November, more than a quarter of eligible voters didn't cast ballots - now that's really a crime.
In some countries, failure to vote is a crime. We like to think of it as a civic duty. We also naively assume that people will refrain from cheating. We're just too nice around here. But never mind that, . . . that last line in the editorial is meant to be a distraction from the real issue.
Racine Mayor Gary Becker agreed last week to comply with the law and send out the verification postcards, but added "there are certain people that seem to want to make voting difficult for most people in some areas. My goal is to make sure that every individual who is eligible to vote and wants to vote is able to with as little inconvenience as possible."
But the "inconvenience" in question doesn’t belong to the voters, it belongs to the election officials, for whom verifying the residency of election-day registrants is apparently too much trouble. Voting has never been inconvenient in Wisconsin. The only way we could possibly make it easier is if we went door to door with already completed absentee ballots, and just asked residents for their signatures. (And don't think someone hasn't already considered that.)
But at least then we'd know that these voters actually had
Wisconsin has obviously made voting far too easy for far too long. Wisconsin will soon be known as the voter-fraud state, as synonymous with election fraud as Chicago is. If we're serious about election reform in Wisconsin, the first thing that has to go is same-day voter registration. But you can bet that an attempt to clean up the election process in Wisconsin is going to be a hard-fought battle.
(Cross posted to Darn Floor)