Van Hollen Forms Elections Integrity Task Force Boosts Efforts to Fight Voter Fraud Across Wisconsin

MacIver News Service | July 29, 2010

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is launching a joint Elections Integrity Task Force Efforts with District Attorneys in eleven of Wisconsin’s largest counties.

This multijurisdictional action team follows the partnership in Milwaukee County with its Democratic District Attorney John Chisholm to form the Milwaukee Elections Fraud Task Force. According to Van Hollen, the expanded, and bipartisan, Task Force will develop and share information, resources, tactics and strategy regarding matters involving election integrity and the enforcement of Wisconsin’s elections laws.

“Our expanded efforts will better ensure voter confidence and will address issues related to election integrity,” said Van Hollen. “This builds on our successful efforts in Milwaukee while reinforcing our roles and partnerships. Elections are undermined when people engage in unlawful voting or otherwise commit fraud on the elections process. We have an obligation to make certain our election system is fair and legal,”

Republican Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen made the announcement in Green Bay this morning. 

“Unfortunately we all have seen instances of voter fraud. It is important to take meaningful steps to address this increasingly important issue,” said Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski.

Van Hollen says the new Task Force is a cooperative, rather than top-down effort.

“Law enforcement that works together works better,” said Van Hollen. “The Wisconsin Department of Justice and district attorneys have a long history of cooperation and communication about matters of statewide concern and how best to work together. By leveraging expertise and resources, this Task Force will greater assist law enforcement in the handling of election-related issues.”

The DOJ said members of the Task Force will work cooperatively to identify issues of common concern affecting election integrity. The Task Force will work on developing some common solutions and approaches to these issues and develop investigative and prosecution strategies. 

The Wisconsin Department of Justice will act as a de facto clearinghouse for information, which will be made available for all prosecutors. It will also develop  resource materials for law enforcement, prosecutors and local officials to deal with such issues as felon voting, double voting, voter registration problems, and campaign fundraising.

While local law enforcement and district attorneys would remain the primary source for the intake of complaints, the Wisconsin Department of Justice will also make available investigative and prosecution assistance as may be deemed necessary in individual cases.

“As long as Wisconsin fails to enact voter identification and DA’s offices remain short-staffed, prosecutors will be hampered in their efforts to ensure that election laws are enforce,” said Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, a Republican. “Therefore, it is critically important that we collaborate to share our experience and develop successful strategies.”

While Van Hollen made Election Integrity a major plank in his successful bid for the AG post four years ago, and is up for re-election in November, the DOJ notes this task force in nonpartisan and includes both Republicans and Democrats.

“I am recommending to my successor, Ismael Ozanne that, as Dane County District Attorney beginning in August, he continue to participate in these information sharing and collaborative efforts,” said Democratic Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard, who will be leaving his post after being elected judge this spring. “Wisconsin has strong laws intended to ensure open and fair campaigns and elections, but those laws are a dead letter if local prosecutors, the Government Accountability Board, and the state Department of Justice do not cooperate in a nonpartisan, professional way to enforce the laws.”

District Attorneys participating in the Elections Integrity Task Force:

  • Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard
  • La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke
  • Marathon County District Attorney Ken Heimerman
  • Racine County District Attorney Michael Nieskes
  • Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider
  • Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski
  • Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel
  • Washington County District Attorney Todd Martens
  • Sheboygan County District Attorney Joe DeCecco
  • Winnebago County District Attorney Christian Gossett
  • Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf

Van Hollen spoke with MacIver News Service earlier this year about his ongoing efforts to fight voter fraud in Wisconsin, and gave us a preview of today’s announcement: