Press Release
November 3, 2016

ICYMI: Report Raises Questions About Whether Wisconsin Attorney General Targeting Democratic Voting Areas With Election ‘Observers’

State Attorney General Who Defended Anti-Voter Laws in Court Not Coordinating With State Election Commission to Place Agents in Polling Places

MADISON, Wis. — A report today by Bruce Murphy in Urban Milwaukee raises serious questions about the true purpose of state Department of Justice employees, including investigators from the Division of Criminal Investigation, being deployed to polling places on Election Day by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel. After Schimel’s announcement yesterday, One Wisconsin Now raised concerns about partisan electoral shenanigans on the part of the Republican Attorney General who, in addition to defending Republican anti-voter efforts in court, has consistently refused to participate in investigations of Republican political malfeasance.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Brad Schimel has defended anti-voter laws in court and refused to investigate possible political corruption by his fellow Republicans. With his record he can’t be trusted to guarantee the integrity of anything.”

As reported in Urban Milwaukee:

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.

The article goes on:

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.”

Finally, it reports:

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.”

# # #

One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

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