Wisconsin's attorney general launched an effort to help local prosecutors investigate voter fraud, which he called a widespread problem that taints elections. J.B. Van Hollen said his office will join with 11 district attorneys to expand a task force that has investigated hundreds of complaints of irregularities from the 2008 presidential election in Milwaukee County.
Prosecutors have charged 17 individuals with counts that include voting illegally as a felon, voting twice and committing voter registration fraud.
But he said the bipartisan effort also would deter fraud by sending a message that enforcement was a priority.
The announcement comes amid a raging partisan debate over how widespread voter fraud really is in Wisconsin. Republicans have long made the case, without much proof, that voter fraud is rampant ... Democrats accuse Republicans of hyping a bogus issue and trying to suppress minority voters. The Government Accountability Board, which runs elections, said recently that it had found no evidence of "any widespread, organized or systemic cases" of voter fraud in the 2008 election. But the board acknowledged a growing perception that it is a problem.
GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said the board handles less than 100 such cases in any given election cycle.
Van Hollen, for his part, said: "I personally believe that we do, and have had, widespread voter fraud."
Van Hollen's Democratic opponent, Scott Hassett, called any problems isolated and the task force "a waste of resources.""That does not exist," he said. "I think he's just playing to his base."
The Milwaukee cases filed so far include voter registration workers who turned in fake and duplicate names, a husband and wife who voted absentee and again at the polls, a man who voted under his dead wife's name and felons who voted illegally.
Hassett would not say whether he would disband the group if elected, but added, "I suspect I'll have much greater priorities than this."