Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Schimel Patrols Only Democratic Voters?

AG’s “Election Integrity Unit” will monitor polls, but targets urban or Democratic areas.

By - Nov 3rd, 2016 10:16 am
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Brad Schimel. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Brad Schimel. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Yesterday Attorney General Brad Schimel announced a major effort to oversee elections in Wisconsin, with a particular emphasis on criminal wrongdoing: his Department of Justice would be sending out assistant attorneys general and special agents from the Division of Criminal Investigation to monitor polling sites. “Voters in Wisconsin must have faith that when they cast their ballot, the integrity of their vote will be protected,” Schimel declared.

That sounds like a major initiative, given the state has 72 counties, hundreds of cities and thousands of polling places. But in fact the effort includes just 16 teams that will be sent to five counties (Brown, Dane, Outagamie, Rock, Milwaukee) and seven cities (Eau Claire, Kenosha, La Crosse, Racine, Stevens Point, Waukesha, and Wausau).

These are mostly heavily Democratic areas. And the one reliably Republican-leaning area, the city of Waukesha, is nearly 18 percent minority, with a significant Latino population. Republicans, of course, have long argued (with little or no evidence) that voter fraud is significant in urban and minority areas.

Has the DOJ examined data to determine which areas of the state have had any voter fraud, I asked Rebecca Ballweg, Senior Communications Specialist for the department. “No, this data has not been examined and is not a factor in deciding where to send monitors,” she answered.

If the idea was to choose the areas of heaviest population, then why not send agents to heavily Republican Menomonee Falls or West Bend rather than the smaller city of Stevens Point? Why not heavily Republican New Berlin rather than the smaller city of Wausau?

Ah, but that’s not the idea, Ballweg insists: “DOJ election monitor teams are located in a fashion that allows them to quickly respond anywhere in the state.”

In that case why no agents in the entire northern third of the state or the state’s central portion?

Ballweg says the DOJ is simply continuing a tradition established in 2004 by Democratic AG Peg Lautenschlager. She, however, isn’t buying any of that.

“My effort had a different slant,” Lautenschlager says. It was not about ferreting out voter fraud but “to make sure voters got to vote when they had proper identification. We sent out special agents because there were individuals trying to prevent people from voting. It was to assure voters were not intimidated. And I don’t think that’s what Brad Schimel is doing.”

Actually, Schimel’s press release says his teams will monitor polling sites for such violations as “observer misconduct, or wrongful denial of right to vote.” That does sound similar to Lautenschlager’s concerns.

But Schimel’s release also provides a link to a page entitled “Question and Answer: Election Integrity” and there the story changes. “DOJ staff have encountered a variety of problems,” we’re told. “A wide variety of criminal election fraud, including felon voting, double voting, and registration fraud have been criminally prosecuted. The primary purpose of election monitoring is to prevent and deter illegal activity.”

None of that is in Schimel’s one-page press release, perhaps because there’s scant evidence of such activity occurring. Schimel’s predecessor, Republican J.B. Van Hollen, had a chance in 2014 to make the case that voter fraud was a problem in Wisconsin in a federal court case, and couldn’t do it. As Federal Judge Lynn Adelman concluded, “The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”

Schimel, too, has insisted voter fraud is a problem, declaring that “I will continue to defend the law until all legal challenges are settled so Wisconsinites can have confidence their vote is not being diluted or diminished by illegal and fraudulent votes.” Schimel defended a laundry list of new state rules that made it harder to vote in Wisconsin, and like his predecessor, struck out in federal court. As federal judge James Peterson declared in his ruling, “The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities.”

That preoccupation comes through in Schimel’s Q and A on Election Integrity, which raises considerable doubts about just what his monitors will be doing.

It is the Wisconsin Elections Commission, newly created this year by a Republican legislature and Republican governor, that oversees elections in the state and it has not requested the help from the DOJ. “It’s their call,” says the commission’s administrator Michael Haas. “It’s really their decision.”

Certainly the commission doesn’t see voter fraud as much of a problem. (Nor did its predecessor, the Government Accountability Board.) In a recent discussion at Marquette University’s Law School, commission member Don Mills said,  “I see no evidence of widespread voter fraud that’s ever affected an election.”

The only kind of fraud that’s been proven has involved felons who haven’t finished their parole and probation (after which they can legally vote), and even that number is miniscule. As Mark Thomsen, chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission noted, “The number of felons voting was so insignificant that we didn’t know if we wanted to keep the records anymore. It had virtually no impact on any real election.”

But Schimel continues to insist on a problem he couldn’t prove in court. Lautenschlager worries that the DOJ monitors may intimidate legal voters. Haas is confident they will “be unobtrusive” at the polls. I hope he’s right.

18 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Schimel Patrols Only Democratic Voters?”

  1. PMD says:

    Voter fraud is real! In Iowa a Trump supporter tried to vote twice because according to her “polls are rigged.” I wonder where she got that idea.

    Schimel is a partisan hack. He is only investigating John Doe leaks that harmed Republicans. He is ignoring John Doe leaks to the Wall Street Journal and other conservative outlets that helped Republicans.

  2. Rnprn says:

    The only documented voter fraud was done by a Republican, insurance executive, Walker supporter. Robert Monroe voted multiple times for Republicans, impersonating other people. He was caught, and prosecuted. Google him for the details. 12 felony counts.

  3. A G says:

    Rnprn, what are you talking about? There’s plenty of documented voter fraud. The report from the 2004 Milawukee election investigation uncovered quite a bit. However, the report concluded that “The Milwaukee Election Commission, through their ineptitude, raised enough reasonable doubt to prevent any further criminal prosecution.” So they found it, but because the system is set up so poorly, they couldn’t prove it to the level required in a court of law.

  4. Rich says:

    Can’t find the actual report very quickly, but here’s a summary: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/29543514.html

  5. Gee says:

    So-called “documented fraud” — of any sort — that cannot be proven therefore is based on, as you admit, doubtful evidence. Therefore, it is only alleged fraud. That is not “plenty of documented voter fraud.”

    And the sources that you attack, A G, supplied the evidence of the case of documented voter fraud by a Walkerite.

    Will Schimel’s palace guard be watching Shorewood for more illegality in all one square mile of it — while in Waukesha County, tampering with bags of ballots again will be ignored?

    Heck, out in Waukesha County, we already know of a town that claims to not have early voting and refuses to provide information. But a family member (with a newborn so hoping to avoid a wait), thanks to a GOTV call from the state Dems, found the information.

    Tomorrow, we will see if that ballot can, by law, be cast in Waukesha County.

  6. PMD says:

    Why is that report from Milwaukee never mentioned by people devoted to voter integrity? This week On Point did an episode about voter fraud concerns and they talked to people from different sides of the issue. One of the people interviewed works for some conservative think tank in North Carolina that is dedicated to voter integrity. He said while there’s no proof of in-person voter fraud being a problem, his group and others who share their beliefs know it’s more common than some suggest. He admitted to having no evidence, but said they just know. I hear this argument all the time from “voter integrity” proponents. Why do none of them ever reference that 2004 report? Does it have no credibility? If it did I would think these folks would constantly being it up, especially since it pertains to a state expected to play an integral role in the election next week.

  7. Gee says:

    PMD, sources I find state that the MPD investigation (note: incorrectly stated above as by the Milwaukee Election Commission, and there were considerable questions as to the motivation as well as the ability of MPD to investigate this, with its legendary lack of technological skills then) was discounted by U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic — a Republican.

  8. Bruce Murphy says:

    Regarding the “report” of 2004, you’ll note there is no author or name credited as author. This was done without authorization by some members of the Milwaukee Police Department as Police Chief Heggerty later noted, in distancing the department from it. Even so, as the story suggests, the “report” found no evidence of double voting or invalid addresses. Later, D.A. Mike McCann and U.S. Attorney did a joint bipartisan study of Milwaukee’s voting and found no evidence of a conspiracy and minuscule examples of illegal voting, mostly a handful of felons. Biskupic was a Republican appointee who not shy about investigating Democrats.

    In the meantime the federal government had passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which required states to improve their systems and Wisconsin made improvements in the Statewide Voter Registration Databases and in Voter Identification Procedures and state officials, from that time on, were quite confident that any double voting could be picked up by the system. And in fact there have been very few instances of any kind of fraud since then, which is why Van Hollen and Schimel haven’t been able to make a good case in court. I think in analyzing fraud, it doesn’t make sense to talk about what might or might not have happened before the HAVA improvements were fully implemented. (Even after that Wisconsin won a grant to make more improvements in 2008, some of the detail is here: http://elections.wi.gov/elections-voting/hava)

  9. Benny Nota says:

    PMD: if “there’s no proof of in-person voter fraud,” then it is impossible for anyone to “know it’s more common than some suggest.” The word you want there is “suspect” or something: if they actually KNEW – that is, if they actually had evidence – then there WOULD be proof of such fraud commonly occurring.

    They do not, because it does not exist.

    Common sense would tell you this is likely to be true: the reward vs. risk of voter fraud is so absurdly balanced toward the risk side that only someone with serious mental deficits would be likely to think it’s a good idea.

    Which is why so far the only documented case this election is a Trump voter.

  10. WashCoRepub says:

    Very, very glad to hear of the DOJ’s efforts on this. Faith in the electoral system is essential to a healthy Democracy. I know my faith was severely tested after the Project Veritas tapes showing a top Democratic operative bragging on hidden camera how they had been accomplishing vote fraud “For 50 years, and they weren’t about to stop now!”

    ‘Trust, but verify.’ Those wise words of President Reagan apply to so many things…

  11. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Schimel is a disgraceful hack, and this act is another insight into the warped mentality of right-wing world. See, we were taught in school that elected officials act in the public interest, and while they may differ in what that interest is, they ultimately are trying to uphold the laws and fairness. And that there’s at least some kind of consistency in carrying out the law

    Not in right-wing world. They use these positions to gain political advantage, and reasoning for doing something slides from instance to instance, depending on what might advantage WisGOPs. This “oversight” is another example, where they use taxpayer resources not to guarantee people’s rights aren’t being taken away, or to ensure that people aren’t voting illegally with multi-method, random checks throughout the state (like with absentee ballots in Waukesha County?). But instead they target Democratic-leaning groups to try to prevent them from voting, and in the process they blow dog-whistles to try to stir up their dimwitted, racist base in the burbs and rural areas.

    Obama needs to step in and stop this rogue state, but apparently he doesn’t seem willing to use the power of the federal government to guarantee people’s rights, like Eisenhower and Kennedy and LBJ did to end Jim Crow measures decades ago (and make no mistake, this is Confederate behavior in Wisconsin). So instead, we have hacks like Schimel doing the bidding of the Kochs, the Bradleys and WisGOPs, and the state continues to decline, as Banana Republics are wont to do.

    Good reporting Bruce. This is truly disgusting, and Schimel has to go.

  12. Virginia says:

    Trump supporter said she decided on a whim to vote for him twice…it’s one of the only recent incidents of verified voter fraud.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/10/29/trump-supporter-charged-with-voting-twice-in-iowa/

  13. PMD says:

    So the report is widely discredited. That explains a lot, like why it is never used as evidence from those so eager to believe voter fraud is more widespread than studies suggest.

  14. John Adams says:

    Strange that the republicans in the state legislature actually changed the law to prevent local district attorneys from investigating voter fraud. And which district attorney’s office in the state of Wisconsin prosecuted the most voter fraud, John Chisholm. I may be off but I don’t believe there has ever been one single case of voter fraud prosecuted in Waukesha county or by Schimel since he has been AG. How hard can it be to find and prosecute all these people voting illegally that Schimel in his many years as top prosecutor in Waukesha and for the state of Wisconsin hasn’t found one!

  15. myfivecents says:

    Why does he think that Republican criminal wrongdoing doesn’t happen considering the majority of voter fraud has been committed by Republican voters? What a total waste of resources.

    How would they even know if someone is voting twice? They have to be registered and on the list at their polling place to be able to vote. If my look-alike twins voted at the same polling place at different times is one of them going to be detained for trying to vote twice?

  16. myfivecents says:

    Isn’t targeting specific areas forbidden by the Consent Decree against the RNC?

  17. PMD says:

    The Trump campaign actually sent a message to supporters asking them not to intimidate voters. WashCoRepub make sure you read it. https://electionlawblog.org/?p=88665

  18. Thomas says:

    Re post # 10: when I read Project Veritas, the phrase “promotes falsehood” comes to mind. Disclaimer: I only studied Latin for one year. When I read AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY at the bottom of a misleading attack ad on TV, that title morphs into ARISTOCRATS FOR PERFIDY. Sources matter. Some sources can be discounted readily.

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