Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Wisconsin's voter fraud problem

With the latest poll showing Barack Obama and John McCain neck and neck in Wisconsin, we could easily become the eye of the Election Day storm. If that happens, we are probably going to look like complete fools on the national stage.

The state’s federally mandated voter registration database is almost certainly riddled with faulty voter registrations. The state Government "Accountability" Board, media editorial boards, Democrats and Jim Doyle argue that we shouldn’t do anything about it. Federal law says we were supposed to - in 2006.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen sued the GAB to get the panel to follow federal law, provoking cries of partisanship because he co-chairs McCain’s campaign.

A Republican Party lawyer did contact Van Hollen’s aide before the lawsuit, even though the attorney general told the media he didn’t think such contact occurred and didn’t know anything about it. He also said he hasn’t talked to McCain’s campaign since June, media accounts said.

Why not? Not even at the convention? It’s a swing state. He’s co-chair. Wouldn’t we want him to? (just not about this. After all, conservatives opposed Democratic Elections Board contacts involving Mark Green).

Meanwhile, Governor Doyle, who has been co-chair of Barack Obama’s campaign, authorized the state to pay a lawyer buddy $175 an hour to try to get Van Hollen tossed off the case. No one raised concerns about Doyle’s partisanship. Where was Doyle when the state was missing deadlines for two years?

Van Hollen is trying to force the board to make retroactive checks of some - 240,000 - voter registrations against driver’s licenses, going back to 2006, when federal law mandated them. The database wasn’t running until last month.

Who’s to blame? The state Elections Board (now GAB).

If the state had done its job years ago, the registrations would have been checked years ago, as required. Who was applying pressure then? The computer database was held up by absurd technical glitches.

A year ago, only 10 other states hadn’t gotten their computer systems up to snuff. A firm was paid almost $10 million in federal money to complete the Wisconsin database. The overall project cost? More than $25 million. And now they are trying to tell us they couldn’t make it work in time for a hotly contested presidential election that we might decide.

Someone should be held accountable for this. Van Hollen’s lawsuit is just attempting to put lipstick on a pig (sorry - couldn’t resist the idiom). But it’s not his pig.

The GAB did a smaller check and found 1 in 5 registrations don’t match license information. This would provoke some people to say, Wow, we have a problem. Let’s check the rest of the registrations in our database to see how big it is. The GAB said: Let them vote anyway because there’s so many; we don’t have time to check the rest.

They say many of the registrations come up without matches because of technical things like people having a middle initial on their driver’s license but not their registration.

Why should thousands of voters be tossed off the rolls because the state’s databases don’t match very well, they ask. The better question is: Why don’t they match by now?

Van Hollen says the retroactive checks will stop voter fraud. I do think it will stop him from being called a fool if this election is decided by a hundred votes. He can say, I tried!

I’m not convinced that lots of people are planning to sneak into the polls to use phony registrations to cast ineligible ballots, though. People caught double voting in the past used their own names. It does make fraud easier, I suppose, if someone is inclined to go to the trouble of submitting a fake registration so they can vote with it. It might happen. Does it? The system doesn’t even know, which is clearly a problem.

The retroactive checks wouldn’t involve felons and dead people; they’re already been weeded off. Most likely, the checks will catch fake registrations that shady voter registration workers made up to earn a quick buck without doing the work. I doubt anyone’s going to try to vote with those names anyway, so why not root them out?

Voters ousted from the rolls because of an initial could still register at the polls or cast provisional ballots. Might some Democrats get flustered by long lines and walk away in busier urban areas? Maybe a few. It depends on the lines.

It’s true that smaller-town Republican areas won’t be affected in the same way if thousands of voters statewide need to re-register or cast provisional ballots. But we already have same-day registration and that doesn’t cause people to storm off.

It would be harder to pull voter fraud off in a small town. I vote in North Lake. The first person I see is always my neighbor, Kenn, a poll worker. If I tried to stroll in to use someone else’s faulty registration after already voting, Kenn would say, "Hey, Jessica, what the heck are you doing back in here? You already voted!"

(Jessica McBride is a member of the journalism faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a blogger and a Merton resident. Her column runs Saturdays in The Freeman.)


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