Empower Wisconsin | March 11, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — News this week of multiple incidents of apparent voter fraud in the 2018 general election should spur more interest in a bill that demands consequences for those who want to cheat at the polls.
Known as the “Double Voting Bill,” AB 897, and its counterpart, SB 795, requires the Wisconsin Elections Commission to refer to local district attorneys cases in which voters likely cast ballots more than once in the same election. The measure calls for, in some cases, the commission to forward complaints on to the Attorney General’s office.
“It’s one of those things that should be in statute so that there’s no question about it. If you double vote, there has to be a consequence,” said Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Monomonee Falls).
Election officials now have the ability — through the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a multi-state data-matching tool — to detect incidents of double voting and other irregutlatires. The legislation grew out of concern that the Elections Commission hasn’t always pursued legal action against those suspected of voter fraud.
“The object of the bill is to make it transparent, to go after folks who are taking away your vote by voting twice,” Brandtjen.
AB 897 passed in the Assembly last month on the final day of floor session. It appears to have enough support to move through the Senate, according to co-sponsors, including co-author Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls).
Brandtjen said there may be more urgency in passing the bill now that the Elections Commission has referred 43 cases of suspected double voting to district attorneys in 19 Wisconsin counties.
The criminal referrals were announced late Tuesday afternoon after Empower Wisconsin requested the list of the individuals alleged to have engaged in “cross-state voting” in the November 2018 general election. A commission spokesman confirmed the referrals but would not release more information. On Wednesday, he told Empower Wisconsin that the commission will treat the request for information as an open records request, which presumably will delay the release of the suspects’ names and the county DA offices where the referrals were sent.
Commission staff analyzed the possible matches by “comparing names, dates of birth and other information from voting records in Wisconsin and other states,” the press release states. Commissioners approved the matching process at its public meeting in December. The commission met in closed session February 27 to review all the cases before voting to make the referrals.
State statute prohibits anyone from intentionally voting “more than once in the same election.” Doing so is a Class I Felony, punishable by 3 1/2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
As the law currently stands, the commission does not have to refer apparent cases of double voting for possible prosecution.
State elections officials, once again, shrugged off the 43 cases as a mere fraction of the approximately 2.68 million votes cast. State Sen. Dave Craig, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the problem is bigger than opponents of voter integrity laws like to admit.
“Since the enactment of voter ID, we have heard from liberals year after year, election after election, when subsequent legislation comes forward to protect the integrity of our elections, ‘Where’s the proof of voter fraud?’ Here’s your proof.” Craig said. “I am heartened to know that justice will hopefully be served in a number of these situations.”
“This should be a warning to liberals not to lie to the people of Wisconsin that there is not voter fraud. This appears to be clear evidence there is a problem,” Craig added.