Troubling Mixed Messages From New Task Force

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Shortly after becoming the Co-Chair for John McCain’€™s Wisconsin Campaign, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the following: ‘€œI’€™m honored to help lead John McCain’€™s Wisconsin campaign, and I’€™m looking forward to his victory in November.’€ The next thing you know Van Hollen is filing a frivolous lawsuit against the State of Wisconsin (which he is supposed to represent) which will, if successful, give an advantage to McCain while disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters. Now we find the McCain Campaign Co-Chair at a Milwaukee press conference announcing the creation of a new ‘€œjoint task force to investigate any allegations of election-related improprieties.’€

The real whopper of the press conference came when Van Hollen had the nerve to say that ‘€œfair elections are not a partisan issue.’€ This from the same guy that filed a frivolous partisan lawsuit to disenfranchise specific groups of voters? Even the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was forced to admit that his suit ‘€œsmells of political mischief.’€ Now we are supposed to trust him to fairly investigate things surrounding the same election that he has a clear stake in?

Also present at Wednesday’€™s press conference was Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and others. During the press conference Chisholm was asked if the task force would investigate the McCain Campaign’€™s sending out absentee ballots with incorrect return addresses on them. While Chisholm promised to look into the matter, his Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf made a point of qualifying that promise. Landgraf said that no one from Milwaukee County has formally complained about receiving such a ballot yet. My thought to that is, ‘€œso what?’€ Why do you need a person from Milwaukee County to complain when you already know that this is an issue? Is this only a task force to look over the shoulder of Milwaukee voters? If so, then why? Right wing hysteria aside, there is no widespread voter fraud problem in Milwaukee and the facts bear that statement out.

Last year the Brennen Justice Center released a complete analysis of the actual incidents of voter mischief in 2004 as compared to the wild and frivolous accusations from ideologues like Van Hollen. They found some of the following:

‘€¢ There were 7 substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes-all persons with felony convictions. This amounts to a rate of 0.0025% within Milwaukee and 0.0002% within the state as a whole.

‘€¢ There were 11 substantiated cases of votes cast by ineligible Milwaukee voters-all persons with felony convictions. There are 8 substantiated cases of votes cast by ineligible voters from other parts of the state – 2 persons with felony convictions, 1 foreign national, 1 17-year-old voter, and 4 absentee ballots cast by deceased voters. That amounts to a rate of 0.004% within Milwaukee and 0.0006% in the state as a whole.

Once again, the facts are clear and there is no widespread voter fraud problem in either Milwaukee or the state as a whole. Unfair focus on Milwaukee voters based on the yammerings of the right wing and its partisan spokesman in the AG’€™s office is unacceptable. The real focus and investigative effort should be placed on actual instances of possible mischief, like McCain’€™s misleading mailings. Although if the new task force does actually look into that problem, I have to wonder if they will question the McCain Campaign Co-Chair first.

UPDATE:  The ACLU and the NAACP have put out a statement saying that they are deeply troubled by the apparent discriminatory focus of the ‘€œelection fraud’€ task force.  They go on to rightfully state, “The formation of a voter fraud task force only in Milwaukee County reinforces an unsubstantiated perception that City of Milwaukee residents are more prone to commit election fraud. And, regardless of intent, a racial subtext is barely below the surface, given the fact that Milwaukee is the only majority-minority city in the state.”

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