Eugene Kane wrote this about Steven Biskupic on Thursday:
Perhaps most impressive was the way Biskupic stood up to a legion of partisan critics in town who insisted that most elections in Milwaukee were rigged by phantom voters and that corrupt Democrats engaged in a conspiracy to steal a victory. When Biskupic announced that his investigation produced zero evidence of widespread voter fraud in Milwaukee, it sent Republican activists reeling but sent a message to other citizens that this U.S. attorney wasn't a puppet on a string.
It's a nice sentiment, but it's off. Biskupic (and E. Michael McCann's) deep investigation into alleged voter fraud wasn't based on any evidence of a voter fraud conspiracy. It was inspired by the state GOP claiming there was a massive conspiracy for their own reasons. And sure there was plenty of evidence of human error and lax bookkepping -- and that deserved being looked at. But that's different from voter fraud. And Biskupic "stood up" after months and months of investigating what was on its face a bogus issue.
But you know what we saw plenty of in the 2004 election? Attempted voter suppression. The state GOP demanding at the 11th hour that more than 5,000 names be struck from the roles because addresses didn't match up -- even though they couldn't prove fraud -- was a clear example.
And the state GOP pulled plenty of shenanigans -- documented shenanigans -- on Election Day.
From the 10/24/05 congressional testimony of Matt O'Neill, deputy state counsel for the Kerry-Edwards campaign:
I also successfully defended a last-minute attempt to remove 5,600 names from the City of Milwaukee registration list based upon unreliable computer analysis. Less than a week before the election, a Republican-led effort was filed with the City Elections Conunission to invalidate 5,600 names on the Milwaukee poll list based upon a computer analysis purporting to show that the addresses did not exist in the City. At the hearing, the Republican witnesses acknowledged that they had not personally verified 99% of the addresses on the list, did not know how many may have been the result of clerical errors, and that the gentleman who signed the verified complaint had learned of the entire matter the day before the hearing. The alleged computer expert acknowledged that he personally checked three of the addresses on the list, and found that one of the three addresses in fact did exist. The City denied the complaint.
The Republican Party had hundreds of attorneys deployed to targeted wards whose primary function appeared to be the intimidation and suppression of minority voters under the guise of monitoring for "fraud." In addition, the GOP paid hundreds of non-lawyers to "observe" at targeted polls while wearing orange T- shirts emblazoned with "HAVA Volunteer" on the front. Our volunteers also encountered law enforcement officials visiting various polls and challenging the propriety of efforts by the Voter Protection attorneys and Election Protection coalition volunteers to assist voters at the polls.
The primary aspects of the carefully planned GOP suppression effort included:
--Placing at least one person behind the election inspectors in targeted wards with a handheld electronic device (primarily Palm Pilots or Blackberries) to stare at each voter while entering their name and address in the device as they identified themselves to the pollworkers and received a ballot.
--Paying individuals $160 to wear orange "HAVA Volunteer" T- shirts and patrol polling places. In large part these individuals (who were not volunteers) knew nothing about the Help America Vote Act, and several wrongly suggested that HAVA required an alreadyregistered voter to produce identification in order to vote.
--Impersonating authorities at the polling places. The Reports reflect instances of orange-shirted observers stating that they were authorities, and instances of persons claiming to be "election officials" and giving out incorrect information about the registration process.
-- Walking up and down voting lines with printed lists in hand and suggesting that persons "not on the list" were not allowed to vote.
--Using attorneys to lodge challenges to voters pursuant to S 6.925, Wis. Stats. In many cases Republican attorneys would lodge a challenge, disrupt the voting process, and then abandon the challenge, after forcing a voter to answer questions under oath, by refusing to execute sworn statements supporting the claimed challenges.
-- Challenging the authority of election inspectors during every step of the election day process, including: (a) challenging the use of special deputy registrars for same day registration (despite an October 27, 2004 City of Milwaukee Elections Commission resolution authorizing the process); (b) challenging inspectors' attempts to continue to process votes during machine breakdowns; (e) asking an inspector to sign a form stating that a machine was not inspected; and (d) challenging the use of volunteers to help process same day registration cards.
-- Using law enforcement agents to harass Election Protection volunteers attempting to assist voters standing in line. For example, at about 5:30 p.m. at Holton School, four men, one with visible handcuffs, walked through the polling place and told Election Protection volunteers not to assist voters attempting to locate the correct polling place.
Threatening to "call the authorities" if election inspectors did not act as instructed by Republican attorneys.
--Challenging any absentee ballot that did not have a Wisconsin- return address in the certificate, despite the fact that an out- of--state return address is legal and appropriate for out-of- state absentee voters.
-- Challenging valid student registration with photo IDs matched to student directories, and thereafter challenging any student who corroborated another student's residence.
In addition to these generalized efforts, the Republican Party attempted to potentially disenfranchise thousands of City of Milwaukee voters through an eleventh-hour challenge (filed literally minutes before the deadline for filing any such challenge) to a list of 5,619 addresses that the Republican; Party contended did not exist. As demonstrated during an October 28, 2004 hearing, the Republican Party did not bother to check the validity of 99% of the names and addresses on the list, many of which were the result of clerical errors that occurred when City employees entered information on the computer system. After that effort failed, just days before the election the GOP publicly threatened to challenge an additional 30,000 registered voters based upon unverified assertions that "apartment numbers" did not match up.
After nearly a year of keeping voter fraud in the headlines, Biskupic pursued just over a dozen cases against felons who voted and double voters. He managed to lock up a grandmother, Kimberly Prude, who likely made an honest mistake. He nearly locked up Cynthia Alicea, a 22-year-old woman with a small child whose crime was filling out two registration cards.
This is what Judge Diane Wood of the 7th District had to say of the case against Ms. Prude, now on appeal:
"I find this whole prosecution mysterious. I don't know whether the Eastern District of Wisconsin goes after every felon who accidentally votes. It is not like she voted five times. She cast one vote."
The Journal Sentinel may love ya, but it seems you're losing credibility with the 7th Circuit, Bisk!
Yes, Biskupic pursued poor women relentlessly. Yet the Brawler fails to recall any investigation by Biskupic into the Republican operations. He doesn't recall an investigation by the Journal Sentinel either.
Again, the Brawler doesn't know if Biskupic is a saint, a political hack, a careerist with well attuned antennae or a media whore. He may be completely pure of the taint that hangs over the Justice Department. The Brawler is perfectly capable he decided to bring these awful cases on his own.
But The Brawler does know Biskupic chose to pursue weak voting fraud cases. And he didn't bother to investigate allegations of investigate voter suppression (and yes, it was obviously unsuccessful in Wisconsin -- but trying to kill someone is a crime).
Chasing voting fraud was a priority of the Bush White House.
Suppressing voters of a different color was one of its tactics.
Which course of action did Biskupic take?