NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 4, 2008

Last week, Mike Sandvick, head of the Milwaukee Police Department's five-man Special Investigative Unit, was told by superiors not to send anyone to polling places on Election Day.  He was also told his unit -- which wrote the book on how fraud could subvert the vote in his hometown -- would be disbanded.

In February, Sandvick's unit released a 67-page report on what it called an "illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome of (the 2004) election in the state of Wisconsin" -- a swing state whose last two presidential races were decided by less than 12,000 votes.  The report found:

  • Between 4,600 and 5,300 more votes were counted in Milwaukee than the number of voters recorded as having cast ballots.
  • Absentee ballots were cast by people living elsewhere; ineligible felons not only voted but worked at the polls; transient college students cast improper votes; and homeless voters possibly voted more than once.

Much of the problem resulted from Wisconsin's same-day voter law, which allows anyone to show up at the polls, register and then cast a ballot.  ID requirements are minimal.  If someone lacks any ID, he can vote so long as someone who lives in the same city vouches for him.  The report found that in 2004 a total of 1,305 "same day" voters gave information that was declared "un-enterable" or invalid by election officials.

According to the report, this loophole was abused by many out-of-state workers for the John Kerry campaign.  They had "other staff members who were registered voters vouch for them by corroborating their residency."

Sandvick says the problems his unit found in 2004 are "only the tip of the iceberg" of what could happen today.  His unit has found out-of-state groups registering their temporary workers, a college dorm with 60 voters who aren't students, and what his unit believes are seven illegal absentee ballots.

Sandvick's report concluded "the one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of the fraud" it found would be elimination of same-day voter registration (which is also used in seven other states).  It also suggested that voters present a photo ID at the polls, a requirement the U.S. Supreme Court declared constitutional this spring.

Source: John Fund, "Milwaukee Puts a Vote-Fraud Cop Out of Business; Local Democrats don't take the issue seriously," Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2008; and "Report of the Investigation into the November 2, 2004 General Election in the City of Milwaukee," Special Investigative Unit, Milwaukee Police Department, February 2008.

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