Civil Rights Workers Wary in Wisconsin

It has brought to our attention that "(s)enior Justice Department officials told civil-rights organizations they plan to deploy hundreds of poll monitors in November to prevent voting-rights violations and deter fraud (Perez, Wall Street Journal, September 9. 2008).

In light of the Wisconsin DOJ/GOP's efforts at voter suppression (that now looks to fail) and the McCain Campaign project sending misleading absentee ballots to voters, the presence of U.S. DOJ officials at polling places has civil rights groups nervous, though it's not confirmed that the DOJ officials will be in Wisconsin at this point.

As Evan Perez writes the Wall Street Journal:

Some critics of the Bush administration said the Justice Department appears to be giving equal weight to preventing vote fraud and enforcing laws aimed at helping minorities cast ballots. 'For the department, the focus should be on voter access,' said Kristen Clarke, voter-participation co-director for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. 'It does seem the criminal division is spending some of their capital on vote fraud, which is disconcerting.' ... In the 2006 election, the department came under criticism from Democrats and some judges for pursuing cases involving Democrats that courts later ruled should never have been brought.

The U.S. DOJ pursuing voting so-called fraud cases in Wisconsin that should never have been brought is not a new development in Wisconsin. As Scott Horton lays out in Harper's (Sept. 7, 2007):

We know that (US Atty) Steven Biskupic, the U.S. Attorney in Milwaukee, was initially put on a list of those to be fired by Karl Rove's office. Then suddenly Mr. Biskupic got deeply engaged in a series of truly dubious cases, all of which had a distinctly Rovian political flavor. First, Biskupic became one of the nation's most enthusiastic participants in the 'voting fraud' fraud. He brought an array of insane cases, including one against a grandmother, which were detailed by The New York Times in an acid review of Biskupic's mercenary political style. These cases generally involved voters who made honest mistakes about registration, but were prosecuted anyway (with many convicted). The targets were always Democrats who were from the major threat communities publicly identified by Rove--minority groups from the inner city. And the prosecutions were transparently pursued for purposes of voter suppression (i.e., an arguably criminal agenda).
The recent creation of a state nonpartisan task force charged with investigating voter fraud allegations (announced in mid-September) and chaired by Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm and Wisconsin Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen, co-chair of McCain's campaign, does not assuage concerns that one political party, the GOP, dedicated to voter suppression as one tactic of its electoral strategy, will prove successful in disenfranchising 1,000s of Wisconsin voters.

Chisholm is an honest DA, but I do not understand why he is trucking with dishonest players investigating fictitious voting fraud when even U.S. Attorney Stephen Biskupic concluded that no widespread fraud existed in the 2004 election.

Van Hollen, Chisholm, and anyone claiming an interest in fair elections ought to be conducting an investigation into McCain's dirty-trick absentee ballot applications stunt.

The fact that even the Milwaukee police department (not known for it judicious investigative techniques as its unwise forays into federal election law and voter fraud show) has been discredited and knocked down so hard it ought never be able to stand does not inspire confidence in those simply wanting to cast a vote because the GOP has not renounced its commitment to keeping the wrong-voting people from casting their ballots.

To help fight voting suppression and its allies, the nonpartisan Election protection coalition (http://www.866ourvote.org/) is a great resource.

Readers are invited to post other resources in comments. The stakes are high.

The ACLU and NAACP hit the state voter fraud task force on Sept. 17. http://www.aclu.org/votingrights/gen/36889prs20080917.html?s_src=RSS

ACLU, NAACP Object To Discriminatory Election Enforcement In Wisconsin (9/17/2008)<,\p>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: liberty@aclu-wi.org

The ACLU of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP are deeply troubled by the apparent discriminatory focus of the "election fraud" task force set up by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.

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.

The truth is that voting irregularities can and do happen throughout Wisconsin - but when they do not occur in Milwaukee, they are called "mistakes" and not "fraud." There was, for example, no law enforcement outcry when earlier this year we learned that hundreds of voters in Oconomowoc voted at the wrong polling place for years, in ways that likely influenced local election outcomes. There is no evidence that voting errors in Milwaukee are any more grounded in "fraud" than were the voting errors in Oconomowoc.

Nor does unlawful voting only occur in Milwaukee. To the contrary, the clear majority of allegations of vote fraud in 2006 occurred outside the city of Milwaukee, in dozens of communities around the state.

The ACLU and NAACP also question involvement by the Milwaukee Police Department in any election task force until such time as there is public disclosure of the role of officers in publishing a biased report earlier this year on the 2004 election making recommendations they had no authority to make, without the approval of their superiors.

The much ballyhooed, but practically non-existent, phenomenon of voter fraud does not warrant the development of a "task force" anywhere, but certainly not just in Milwaukee. Indeed, as law enforcement officials recognized this morning, the City Election Commission has made great strides in promoting fair and transparent elections, and the creation of a "fraud" task force only undermines faith in those elections. State and local officials should focus time and resources on facilitating election administration, not frustrating the rights of persons lawfully entitled to vote.

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Tags: AVLU, breaking Wisconsin politics, civil rights, Evan Perez, GOP dirty tricks, J.B. Van Hollen, Karl Rove, NAACP, Reince Priebus, Steven Biskupic, US Department of Justice, voter caging, voter suppression, Voting Rights (all tags)

Comments

1 Comment

Re: Civil Rights Workers Wary in Wisconsin

Thank you for this.

by lollydee 2008-09-28 10:40AM | 0 recs

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