US Attorney Steven Biskupic's declaration that there was no evidence of a conspiracy to commit voter fraud in the 2004 elections irritated Karl Rove and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
But it doesn't make him a hero. Because he pursued an investigation of this bogus issue as aggressively as he could.
Bisk -- who had already investigated bogus fraud claims before the election -- announced his investigation in January 2005. By May 2005 he was saying he had found no sign of conspiracy but found plenty of hinky things. In December 2005 he declared nope, no conspiracy but some cases of double voting and felons voting.
So that was the result of 11 months of work by Biskupic (and County DA McCann) and your tax dollars. Eleven months in which the spectre of voter fraud hung over the city and was pimped by the MJS and the right wing barkers and the state Republican party. Eleven months investigating "fraud" which from the start looked more like bureaucratic bungling and errors by overwhelmed poll workers.
The Brawler suspects he could have wrapped things up a lot sooner than he did. And he might not needed to have pursued it at all, based on the final tally.
What was the ultimate result?
From Talking Points Memo:
Note: Biskupic's task force pursued a range of cases -- eighteen prosecutions total. The US Attorney's office prosecuted fourteen individuals. Four were indicted on charges of double voting, all of whom were either acquitted or had charges dismissed. Eight felons were indicted for unlawfully voting. Five of these individuals were eventually acquitted; the others were convicted and sentenced to punishments ranging from fines to probation. In addition, two former felons serving as poll workers were prosecuted for unlawfully voting. Both men received short jail sentences. The office of the District Attorney confirmed their successful prosecution of two individuals who falsified registration cards. Finally, the Journal Sentinel has reported that the District Attorney prosecuted two additional cases of illegal voting by felons.
Eighteen prosecutions for 11 months of work. Not too good. And for an example of how weak these cases were, consider the case of Cynthia Alicea.
From a 01/08/06 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story by editorial writer Gregory Stanford:
Like many in her generation, Cynthia Alicea, now 23, was planning to sit out the 2004 presidential election. She was working at Little Caesars Pizza on Milwaukee's east side when fellow workers came in wearing the round "I Voted" stickers handed out at city polling sites.
They urged the reluctant Alicea to do her civic duty and cast a ballot, too. Finally, she said, "I'll see how it goes when I get off of work. If I'm not tired, if I can get a baby sitter, I'll vote."
Things worked out, and she did vote -- a mistake, she now says. She adds she's inclined not to vote ever again.
She fell victim to a witch hunt the Republican drive to find pervasive fraud
in the last presidential election in Milwaukee.
The U.S. attorney charged her with double-voting on the basis of evidence the jury found unpersuasive. It quickly acquitted her after a two-day trial.
The ordeal left its toll, though. She went through the humiliation of being questioned and booked she was fingerprinted, and a mug shot was taken. She had to devote chunks of time to dealing with the charge. She lived with the fear of going to prison up to five years, says the statute, which also specifies a fine of up to $10,000. And all for being a good citizen and voting.
Just the act of voting proved more involved than she had anticipated. Her boyfriend picked her up at work and dropped her off at one polling site, where she learned she had to walk three blocks to another, at the Franklin Pierce School, where she waited in line for what seemed like two hours.
She was told she had to register. She showed her Wisconsin ID and filled out a registration card. A worker later told her to fill out another because the first was wrong, she says. She did.
"I had waited two hours," she explains. "I just wanted to vote and get out."
Alicea was shopping over the summer when she got a call from her sister informing her that police detectives were waiting to see her. Never before in trouble with the law, Alicea thought the visit might have been related to her boyfriend. She came home and was shocked to learn they were questioning her about voting.
She had filled out two registration cards, the detectives said, which meant that she had voted twice. She tried to explain what had actually happened.
The trial took place in the courtroom of Federal Judge Rudolph Randa. Alicea's court-appointed lawyer, Thomas Erickson, made a few obvious points.
If she was really trying to vote twice, why would she put her same name, birthdate and address on both cards?
He also randomly picked registration cards from before and after she voted and pointed to a slew of errors fitting the alternate theory that swamped workers were making mistakes right and left.
He noted they made another mistake with Alicea: The site where she voted was still the wrong one for her address!
The jury came back so fast that Alicea, thinking they would be out longer, missed the "not guilty" verdict.
A speedy jury -- not unlike the lightning fast 7th Circuit!
Seriously though, juries can be random. It's not inconceivable that a jury could have been swayed by the prosecution. In which case a 23 year old mother with a young child could have wound up in jail. For nothing.
Voter fraud -- i.e. voter suppression -- was a priority for the White House in 2004. There's no question Biskupic knew this. He's a smart man. Plus he had Rick Graber bending his ear. Did he go after Alicea out of a sense of justice? Because he's a political hack? Because he's a careerist with well-attuned antennae? Because he's a media whore?
The Brawler does not know. But he would suggest that this case, like the Georgia Thompson one, was one that should not have been brought. And perhaps it's one deserving further scrutiny.
UPDATE: Coincidentally, the New York Times today has a story about the White House's failure to find voter fraud in five years of trying. And it mentions Cynthia's story.
UPDATE II: The Brawler calls upon the JS to take another look at the Great Voter Fraud Scare of 2004. Lo and behold, they start.