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.First, the United States routinely produces peaceful transferences of power which really amount to miracles. We come together as brothers who respect the nation and the law. Voter fraud threatens our national trust in our own mutual and common purpose. Every incident of voter fraud is a step closer to widespread anarchy. Voter fraud is not some innocuous and laughable thing: Ha ha let me tell you funny some stories of voter fraud. It is, rather, the national equivalent of playing with fire. Voter fraud is actually quite dangerous to our nation.
"We know what to look for," he told me, "and that scares some people." In disgust, Mr. Sandvick plans to retire. (A police spokeswoman claims the unit isn't being disbanded and that any changes to the unit "aren't significant.")
In February, Mr. 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 that 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."
The investigative unit believed at least 16 workers from the Kerry campaign, and two allied get-out-the-vote groups, "committed felony crimes." But local prosecutors didn't pursue them in part because of a "lack of confidence" in the abysmal record-keeping of the city's Election Commission.
Mr. 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.
"The time to stop voter fraud is prior to when the questionable ballot is mixed in with all the valid votes," he says. Former police captain Glenn Frankovis agrees: "This issue could be solved if [the police chief] would assign police officers to the polling locations as was customary about 20 years ago." But election monitors are now viewed as "intimidating" in minority precincts and have been withdrawn.
Mr. 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 in use 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.
But weeks after the vote fraud report was released, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold introduced federal legislation to mandate same-day registration in every state. He claimed the system had worked well in Wisconsin and if "we can bring more people into the process, [it] only strengthens our democracy." Democrats tell me his bill is a top priority of the new Congress.
"They say voter fraud isn't a problem," notes Mr. Sandvick, "but after this election it may be all too clear it is." Now that Mr. Sandvick is resigning from the force after a long, honorable career, let's hope someone else is allowed to follow up on the spadework he's done.
Second: "[E]lection monitors are now viewed as 'intimidating' in minority precincts and have been withdrawn." It's also quite dangerous to our nation to pretend fantasy is truth. What does "intimidating" mean? What are the "intimidated" persons scared of? Being arrested? Bull. Being harassed? If they were harassed they would be on Geraldo and become national celebrities. Having their feelings hurt via dirty looks from a cop? The Constitution provides no protection against having one's feelings hurt.
Everyone knows "intimidating" is a horse manure excuse to get cops out of the polling places and thereby allow election fraud to occur. Only a professional journalist would give credence to "intimidating" as an actual, tangible thing.
Ours is a nation of laws, and of voluntary lawful citizens. No laws are more important or more central than those which govern free and fair elections. If we lose our faith in each other in this area: then our nation is already toast, and we just don't yet know it.
Ours is a culture of science and clearheadedness: we slash and hack superstition into bits and pieces, then use it to pave our roads into the future. If our culture begins to accept "intimidating" fantasy as reality - even a little bit, even merely to appease the loud complaining persons, even as a wink-wink excuse for committing voter fraud - then our culture is already toast, and we just don't yet know it.
Were I a God, I would strike my swift sword of retribution upon some polling centers in Milwaukee:
Compare and contrast!
Photo: Johnny Autery of Dixons Mills, Alabama
Also: see this