Greg Borowski reports in today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that an analysis of voting records done by the newspaper reveals that seventeen precincts in the city showed at least 100 more votes than the number of registered voters, even counting the already-problematic same-day registrants. Four precincts, or wards, had more than 500 extra votes:
Record-keeping surrounding the Nov. 2 presidential election in Milwaukee is so flawed that in 17 wards there were at least 100 more votes recorded than people listed by the city as voting there.
In two wards, one on the south side and one on the north side, the gap is more than 500, with fewer than half the votes cast in each ward accounted for in the city’s computer system, a Journal Sentinel review has found.
Such gaps were present at different levels in nearly all of the city wards and could hamper the investigation launched last week by federal and local authorities into possible voter fraud by giving an incomplete or inaccurate picture of who actually voted.
They also raise questions about the level of oversight of how the city records who voted in each ward – an important safeguard that, properly done, can be used to spot double voting and other problems.
And unless the gaps can be fully resolved, they leave room for critics to allege that ballot boxes were stuffed in the city, which went heavily to Democrat John Kerry over President Bush in a state with one of the closest margins in the country.
Milwaukee has 312 voting wards, and the MSJ checked the records to see if it could find a pattern of abuse. It didn’t find a geographic pattern, although Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind seems to note a couple of interesting items when he checks his map:
From looking at the Journal Sentinel’s map of the really messed up wards we see them scattered across the city. The only real concentration was in the far north side, wards 258, 259, and 260. Combined those three wards had 490 more ballots cast than voters listed as voting. Such a concentration could mean a concerted fraud effort was happening in that area. Three wards that also caught my eye: Ward 312 at Marquette University, Ward 39 at UW-Milwaukee, and Ward 44 near UWM. Wards where university students votes makes me suspicious because in 2000 Marquette University students bragged about voting more than once. One of the admitted polling places was Marquette Alumni Memorial Union, Ward 312. These are wards investigators should look at first.
Most of the problem appears to have been a highly careless election staff that didn’t bother to scan the election logs, or failed to include them altogether. This is the important safeguard that the MSJ reports was ignored altogether, and it bolsters the notion that systemic fraud may be a secondary explanation, behind incompetence. It resulted in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unrecorded votes as well; Borowski and the MSJ staff found 593 in one ward alone. Lisa Artison could not comment on this development as she was out of the office yesterday, but that’s still not good news for her or the bureaucracy she leads.
So now on top of an outrageously high number of same-day registrants (30% of Milwaukee’s total for the second presidential election in a row), we have a casual and haphazard counting and verification process to add to a casual and haphazard registration process. The bill attempting to mitigate the latter faces stiff Democratic opposition, and the Democrats have their usual ally in camp for the battle:
On Tuesday, Rick Graber, head of the state Republican Party, challenged his Democratic counterpart to appear at a hearing on the matter Thursday so together they can condemn “the fact that potentially thousands of voters across Wisconsin had their legally cast ballot disenfranchised by fraud and abuse.”
Linda Honold, state Democratic Party chair, said she was unsure if she would attend the meeting but added that if she did go, she would do so to oppose the bill.
“If I’m there, I’m not going to be arguing what he wants me to argue,” she said.
Others, including the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the group Wisconsin Citizen Action, condemned the voter ID proposal.
The Democrats appear united in trying to protect their power base and the easily-manipulated system which keeps them in statewide office. The ACLU can be relied upon to oppose any kind of ID scheme, no matter how reasonable, especially when it favors the Democrats. Perhaps the ACLU could explain why presenting a valid ID on Election Day make voting “harder” for qualified voters, since most people drive to the polls and should have it on them anyway. Those who do not drive can inexpensively get a state photo ID that works just as well and remains valid just as long, and if they write checks in most places, already need. The only people who find it “harder” to vote when ID is required are the people who don’t belong in the polling station in the first place.
It appears that Milwaukee’s fiasco has many dimensions to it, and both fraud and incompetence remain as root causes. The independent investigation into the city’s practices promises to cause an uproar when completed. Stay tuned.