With all the talk about the criminal charges against groups like ACORN for trying to fatten Wisconsin’s voter rolls, I thought it would be helpful to stroll through the state’s statutes to give a common language explanation of what exactly it is that they’re doing wrong, and why it matters. The easiest way to do so, I think, is to compile a simple how-to manual describing the various ways state law allows you to cast a fraudulent vote and never be caught.
Of course, the overriding theme here is names – once someone gets a false name on a voter list, it is there virtually for good. A first name, last name and address is as good as a vote, as long as identification isn’t necessary to verify it at the polls. If ACORN were merely adding fraudulent names to voter rolls to satisfy some kind of quota they had set for themselves, that would still be fraud, but not nearly as concerning. But since Wisconsin doesn’t require any sort of identification verification at the polls, those names could quickly become votes – which can easily sway elections.
This is the one you’ve been hearing about in the news recently. Until the last year or so, local governments could “deputize” people to go out and collect names to be added to the voter rolls. The names were written down on cards and mailed in. In theory, these are supposed to be treated like mail-in registrations, which require some form of proof of residence. But this required local governments to be vigilant in doing the legwork to verify all these new names, which may not have often occurred.
Now, the state is supposed to be handling the “deputy” registration process. ACORN submits the names they collect to the state, which does a preliminary check, then farms the names out to the municipality to do the final check. But what ACORN tries to do is flood the state with names, so it takes a long time for them to sort through them and redirect them to the local clerk. Some clerks have said they are still getting registrations from the state dated as far back as August – and with just a few days left before the election, there’s just not enough time to do the requisite checks. As a result, a lot of names could be showing up on the rolls without adequate verification.
After the election, clerks are required to send post cards to all the new registrants to verify addresses. If a post card comes back undeliverable and the individual voted, those names are supposed to be forwarded to the district attorney in that municipality’s county. Once the DA has those names, it is completely up to them what they do with them. And given the time needed to track down these people, those names could sit on the shelf for a while.
But, as noted, once a vote is cast, it is cast. As long as ACORN has a Xerox machine and copies off the cards, they know the names they put on the voter lists. And any one of their volunteers can go from polling place to polling place, voting under any number of pseudonyms.
#2: “The Vouch”
When someone actually registers to vote for the first time at the polls, some form of proof of residence is required. This could be a driver’s license, bank statement, utility bill, or several other forms of identification. If a person does not have the required identification, they can still cast a provisional ballot. It is only after a person is registered that they are no longer forced to verify their identity. However, there is a giant loophole – someone can register to vote without any form of identification as long as a registered voter “vouches” for them.
So on election day, you will sometimes see a situation where a bus of people pulls up, with none of the people having identification. One person on the bus will be a registered voter in the municipality, and will then “vouch” for all the others, which will then be allowed to register on the spot without any form of ID. These people could be from Illinois, they could be from Texas, they could be from Prague. And the only way their residence can every be verified is months after the election, when the postcard check is completed, if it is ever completed.
#3: “Phone a Friend”
Under state law, voter lists are public information, and for good reason. The public should have a right to examine who is registered. As such, sometimes you will see poll watchers at the polls, who have a copy of the same list the clerks have. When a voter comes in and casts a ballot, the poll watcher scratches that name off the master list.
Near the end of the day, the poll worker is left with a list of all the people who haven’t voted – which, even during the busiest days, is half the list. At around 7:00 PM, they can get on the phone and read off a list of names of people who have not yet voted, so people can come down and use those names to cast ballots. Again, since no identification is required, there’s no way the poll workers can question whether they are the actual people they say they are.
This method has the added bonus of filling up the polling place right before they’re scheduled to close at 8:00, which leads to lawsuits being filed to keep the polling place open. That way, if the wrong candidate wins, voter suppression can be alleged.
Of course in two of the above ways, it is impossible to go back and check whether fraud has occurred, since voting under a name on the rolls is perfectly legal without identification. And, to the state’s credit, other openings for potential fraud have been tightened up in recent years. Checks are being done to make sure voters aren’t registered at more than one location within the state. At one time, a community group could request a stack of ballots, have people fill them out in their offices, and send them in absentee (this is what happened at the famous “bingo” party Governor Doyle’s volunteers held in Kenosha in 2002.) Apparently, that no longer is legal. It should also be noted that some of ACORN’s volunteers are being caught, which means some safeguards are working.
However, despite many of these safeguards being in place now, the toothpaste may already be out of the tube. Who knows how many false names and addresses have been added to the voter rolls by these community groups in the past few years. And, as noted, they are extremely difficult to check. And new regulations do nothing to roll back the names that already exist. ACORN knows these names, but clerks do not.
Also, there are still tactics that go on that can’t be easily fixed by state law. Offering “smokes for votes” to homeless people is going to go on – it’s illegal, but difficult to catch. College students are probably still going to be able to vote in their home states and in Wisconsin, until there’s a national database check – which, given Wisconsin’s difficulty in putting together a statewide list, is still a long way away. Campaigns will still be able to shell out under the table “walking money” to volunteers to pay them to get people to the polls.
But with a simple switch to a photo ID requirement, all of ACORN’s shenanigans are undercut significantly. It severs the tie between “vote fraud” and “vote registration fraud,” and gives our electors more insurance that their votes aren’t being cancelled out by fraud.
October 16, 2008 at 11:53 am
Excuse me while I throw up. Not only did I think the process was a joke, you’ve just clarified how ridiculously easy the system can be scammed. The answer to the question of “who does this benefit” is obvious…look who constantly is opposed to a voter ID requirement.
October 17, 2008 at 8:44 am
All these assumptions are incredible.
Every registration gets put into the system, eh?
Fat chance. So now you nuts, think every city clerk is ‘fixing’ the system.
This is a tin foil hat using the whole 200′ roll!
Finally, Section No. 9 on every registration form should be read, and then you need to question why your little lipstick’d lawyer, Van Holler a lot, is not suing the individual voters who signed the forms…that is where the fraud occurs. The signature on the legal disclaimer.
You love to use,…might possibly, could hopefully, what if…coulda, woulda, shoulda.
DO NO TICK OFF THE POLL WORKERS on election day.
They have the real weapon to end this whole GOP scam.
The can simply offer to re-register every voter, as they come in, before you can challenge them…
any new registrations invalidates that name on the voter lists.
My vote will not be qualified by an very old, poorly visioned woman, who says I don’t look like my fuzzy DMV photo, after she mispronounces my ‘ethnic’ name.
October 17, 2008 at 1:42 pm
You are proposing (without evidence) a conspiracy of people involving the registration of names of people whom ACORN has flagged and alerted election officials to the fact that the said names seen suspicious. [Interesting behavior for co-conspirators.]
Also involved are the people impersonating the fictitious names, again without evidence that this is happening.
Also, involved in one sceario are the people vouching for the validity of the fictitious names. No evidence is presented by you.
Plenty of evidene exists to the contrary: See http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/truthaboutvoterfraud/
It is said that a given grand jury will indict a ham sandwich. On the evidence of this alledged conspiracy that you propose, not even a grand jury would indict.
Your argument lacks evidence and you do not even pretend to support you conclusion that “… since Wisconsin doesn’t require any sort of identification verification at the polls, those names could quickly become votes – which can easily sway elections.
October 18, 2008 at 11:19 am
From the GAB is a quick sheet on how to register to vote. It disconfirms your poorly researched piece.
Category: Voter Information
HOW TO REGISTER TO VOTE
As of January 1, 2006, all municipalities in Wisconsin require voter registration prior to a person being allowed to vote.
The federal “Help American Vote Act of 2002” requires any person registering to vote to:
1) Supply his or her Wisconsin Department of Transportation – issued driver’s license number. If the elector has not been issued a Wisconsin driver’s license, he/she must provide the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number OR their Wisconsin state ID card number. If the elector does not have a current, valid Wisconsin driver’s license, Wisconsin state ID card, or Social Security Number, the applicant may indicate this by filling in the appropriate circle on the registration form. (Box 2 on Form EB-131) THE REGISTRATION CANNOT BE PROCESSED UNTIL THE ELECTOR PROVIDES THIS INFORMATION.
If the voter has a current, valid Wisconsin driver’s license but does not know the number and did not bring it to the polling place, poll workers should allow the voter to vote by provisional ballot. (Note: the voter CANNOT use the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number if he or she has been issued a Wisconsin driver’s license). The provisional ballot will not be counted until the voter either:
a) brings his or her driver’s license number to his or her polling place before the polls close at 8:00 pm on Election Day; or
b) transmits (via fax, email, telephone call or personal visit) his or her driver’s license number to the municipal clerk before 4:00 pm on the day after the Election.
Anyone wishing to vote in the state of Wisconsin has three options to register:
1. BY MAIL: Download the Application for Voter Registration (EB131), complete the form and mail it into the municipal clerk’s office. List of Wisconsin Municipal Clerks [alphabetical by county] The application must be postmarked no later than the 20th day (3rd Wednesday) before the election. (For the September Partisan Primary, that date is Wednesday, August 20, 2008, and for the November General Election that date is Wednesday, October 15, 2008.)
PLEASE NOTE: State and federal law now requires that any first-time voter submitting a registration application by mail provide a copy of an acceptable identifying document that provides proof of residence. (A “first-time voter” is an individual who has not voted in an election in Wisconsin.) Acceptable forms of proof of residence are outlined below. Please note that first-time voters registering by mail may not use a residential lease as proof of residence. The copy of the form of proof of residence must be included when submitting the registration application. If a copy of proof of residence is not included, the elector will be required to supply it before being issued a ballot at the polling place or before being issued an absentee ballot in the municipal clerk’s office.
2. IN PERSON: Register in the municipal clerk’s office up to 5:00 PM or the close of business whichever is later on the day before the election. (For the September Partisan Primary, that date is Monday, September 8, 2008 and for the November General Election that date is, Monday, November 3, 2008.) Note: after the BY MAIL deadline, an elector voting in person in the clerk’s office is required to present acceptable proof of residence as outlined below.
3. AT THE POLLING PLACE ON ELECTION DAY: If you wish to register to vote at your polling place, you must bring proof that you have lived at your present location for at least 10 days preceding the election. For purposes of voter registration, acceptable forms of proof of residence must include:
1. A current and complete name, including both the given and family name; and
2. A current and complete residential address, including a numbered street address, if any, and the name of a municipality.
**Forms with an expiration date must be valid on Election Day.
PROOF OF RESIDENCE
The following constitute acceptable Proof-of-Residence if the document contains the information specified above:
A current and valid Wisconsin driver’s license.
A current and valid Wisconsin identification card.
Any other official identification card or license issued by a Wisconsin governmental body or unit.
Any identification card issued by an employer in the normal course of business and bearing a photo of the card holder, but not including a business card.
A real estate tax bill or receipt for the current year or the year preceding the date of the election.
A residential lease which is effective for a period that includes election day (NOT for first-time voters registering by mail).
A university, college or technical institute fee card (must include photo).
A university, college or technical institute identification card (must include photo).
A gas, electric or telephone service statement (utility bill) for the period commencing not earlier than 90 days before election day.
A check or other document issued by a unit of government.
October 18, 2008 at 9:46 pm
Actually, that GAB memo does nothing to contradict anything I said. Maybe you missed this paragraph:
And I did give the current system credit for being only slightly better than the old system. But who knows how many names showed up on lists before these marginal “improvements?”
And as for my “evidence,” I spent eight years running state senate campaigns, often in urban districts. And I have seen each of these examples in person. So I’ll take that over a left wing Brennan study, thanks.
January 11, 2009 at 10:09 am
Welcome to the present. You past experience is no longer valid or applicable. All Wisc Voting laws changed in Jan of 2008, and the rules are not what they were, back in the ‘good ol days’. Pollworkers were ready to re-register very single voter in the state, beacuse of the WPRI support of the frivilous lawsuit, Van Hollen filed.
So why do you hate Wisconsin voters, and think they are all frauds, as Van Hollen does?
Post Nov 4, 2008….wow 6 cases of fraud, out of 7 Million votes cast in 2008? Of those 6, only two involved actual ballots, the other four were for attempted registration violations.
What’s on tap for 2009… Justice Abrahmson is part of ACORN because her name also starts with an “A” ?
I like the open finance discloure rules proposed for 527 groups, like WMC and WPRI. How about you?