Yesterday, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen "announced . . . that the Milwaukee Election Fraud Task Force has brought additional electoral fraud cases against five Wisconsin residents . . ." for their role in "election fraud arising out of the November 8, 2008, Presidential Election."
Two of the five charged worked for ACORN as voter registration gatherers:
According to the criminal complaints, Miles and Clancy served as Special Registration Deputies ("SRD") for the City of Milwaukee in advance of the 2008 Presidential Election. Each worked for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now ("ACORN"). Miles and Clancy are each charged with the felony offense of Falsely Procuring Voter Registration as Party to a Crime. The complaint alleges that Miles and Clancy submitted multiple voter registration applications for the same individuals, and also were part of a scheme in which they and other SRDs registered each other to vote multiple times in order to meet voter registration quotas imposed by ACORN.
The third voted when he wasn't eligible to:
Henderson is charged with one count of Voting by a Disqualified Person and one count of Providing False Information to Election Officials, both felonies. The complaint alleges that Henderson registered to vote at the polls on November 4, 2008, thereby certifying that he was a qualified elector. It also alleges that he then cast a ballot. At that time, Henderson was on an active period of probation for felony convictions from Rock County. A felon on an active period of supervision for a felony offense is prohibited by state law from voting in any election.
Finally, the last two were charged with double voting:
Herbert and Suzanne Gunka are each charged with the felony offense of Double Voting. The complaint alleges that they each voted in the November 2008 election by casting absentee ballots before the election. The complaint also alleges that after casting absentee ballots, they each voted in person at their polling place on election day.
There is nothing surprising or new here about the charges against the ACORN employees. ACORN and its employees have been charged in other states for similar voter registration schemes, including in Pennsylvania and Nevada. What happens is this: ACORN sets up a system where its voter registration gatherers are required to (or are given incentives to) obtain a certain number of new registrations per hour or per day. This is often in contravention of state laws that ban incentivizing voter registration gatherers for the number of new registrations they obtain. In order to meet the requirements or to obtain bonuses for the number of new registrations, ACORN employees make up names, duplicate names, use each others' names multiple times, etc. That's where you hear of Mickey Mouse, Dick Tracy, and the roster of the Dallas Cowboys being registered. Not only are the ACORN workers incentivized for gathering a certain number of new registrations, often times the ACORN employees will be fired for not meeting the quota for new registrations. ACORN was not charged as an organization here and it is not immediately clear if the registration quotas set by ACORN ran afoul of state law like they did in Nevada and Pennsylvania. Hot Air has more on the ACORN employees' indictments.
In my view, the charge of "Voting by a Disqualified Person" for Henderson is most significant. Henderson registered at the polling place on Election Day in 2008 claiming he was eligible to vote. He then voted. Henderson was on an active period of probation for a felony charge and under state law was ineligible to vote.
How was Henderson able to vote? Well, Wisconsin is one of nine states that has some form of Election Day Registration (EDR). This allows unregistered voters to show up the day of the election and register and vote at the same time. It sounds like a good idea in theory, that is until you get convicted felons and others ineligible to vote showing up to cast ballots. Wisconsin does have some safeguards against voter fraud in these instances but they don't go far enough. Hardened criminals looking to vote aren't going to be scared away by having to sign an affidavit swearing they are eligible voters. Without any type of verification procedures beyond what is available at the polling place, folks like Henderson can, and do, slip through the cracks. It's likely Henderson would have never been able to vote if he had been required to register in advance. Verification procedures, one of the main reasons for voter registration deadlines before elections, would have likely identified Henderson as a felon and disqualified him from voting. Instead it took a special investigation after the election to determine he wasn't eligible.
This is not the first time that Election Day Registration in Wisconsin has yielded voter fraud. Just a quick search of the WI DOJ website show that similar charges were brought in March and April of 2009. In fact, the problems associated with EDR have been apparent since the 2004 General Election. Following the election, a Special Investigations Unit of the Milwaukee Police Department issued a 67-page report summarizing the problems with Election Day Registration. Citing concerns for fraud (or the appearance of fraud), the report's ultimate recommendation was to eliminate EDR or to require a valid government issued photo ID in order to register and vote on Election Day. Moreover, the report shows that these are likely far from isolated incidents: potentially hundreds of ineligible votes are being counted each election.
For every Henderson that votes an eligible voter has his or her vote taken away. Whatever convenience Election Day Registration provides is outweighed by the threat that your vote will be discounted because of fraud or incompetence.