The subject of election fraud has recently become a hot button issue with voters due to recent comments made by the Donald Trump campaign, most notably by Trump himself. An examination of some numbers and discussions with city and county officials indicate that voter fraud is not as much of a problem as some residents may have come to believe.
According to Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern, there have been approximately one million votes cast in Milwaukee County from 2012 to today. He said 28 cases of felony voting and six cases of double voting have occurred in the county during that time period. It is the DA's office that decides whether to bring charges against voters accused of violations.
No rampant violations
Wauwatosa Police Election Detective Joe Lewandowski said he does not believe that election fraud in the city is a major issue. He bases that assessment on three years of investigating cases brought to his attention by the Wauwatosa city clerk's office.
"There have been a fair amount of issues we have investigated," Lewandowski said. "It usually comes down to something that is fixable. I have not seen any implication that there are rampant violations in Wauwatosa."
The majority of cases Lewandowski has had to investigate involved incorrect addresses or residents voting in the wrong district or city. He said most were not a result of intent to commit voter fraud, but said according to the state statute on prohibited election practices, the intent of the voter does not affect the fact that the errors are still violations.
According to the statute, prohibited election practices include election officials campaigning at the polls, distribution of election materials or political messages at polling stations, adding or denying of benefits to voters or making threats or bribes to voters. In addition, voters are not allowed to take pictures of a ballot or the inside of a voting booth; that includes "selfies."
City Clerk Carla Ledesma said that she has testified in one case of voter fraud in her time and it was a case of someone who had mistakenly voted in both Wauwatosa and West Allis. She added that there is some confusion with some voters over what constitutes voter fraud.
"Fraud gets lumped together under one term," Ledesma said.
Voter fraud as defined by the statute includes voting out of district or city, falsifying registration documents, completing multiple registrations, impersonating or posing as another person, voting more than once in the same election, showing a ballot to another person, procuring an official ballot and neglecting or refusing to cast or return it (unless it is an absentee ballot) or assisting or advising another person to do any of the prohibited acts.
In the event there are any issues that voters witness, they may call the election hotline number posted in all of the voting sites in Wauwatosa and/or report it to the on-site chief inspector.
If you are interested in observing a polling place, the state permits individuals to observe voting and the election administration process on election day. It also permits observers to view the absentee voting process in the municipal clerk’s office, the entire ballot-counting process, including recounts, and voting in residential care facilities and nursing homes. There are rules written by the Government Accountability Board regarding being a poll observer and those include registering as a poll observer with the chief inspector.
"What happens at the polls is the responsibility of the chief inspector. (If there's) any issue at a poll site, a voter should talk to them," Lewandowski said. "You can bring any challenge to their attention, but you must have reasonable cause to do so."
To monitor all of this, Lewandowski checks in at all of the polling sites and stays in constant motion until the ballots have been secured at the end of election day. In addition, he has fellow officers on stand-by in the event that they are needed.