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Milwaukee officials: Review finds many disputed addresses exist

Associated Press   30 October 2004

MILWAUKEE - A review by the city attorney's office found that hundreds of addresses the state Republican Party claimed were incorrect or nonexistent do exist.

Milwaukee elections officials earlier this week voted 3-0 to reject a GOP complaint seeking to eliminate 5,619 people from voter registration lists. The party appealed Friday to the state Elections Board, asking it to intervene and remove the names.

State Republican Party spokesman Chris Lato said allowing votes from those addresses would amount to fraud. He said the party found more bad addresses on Friday and questioned the notion that the list had significant problems.

"Nobody is disputing the vast majority of these are bad addresses," Lato said.

But Milwaukee city attorney Grant Langley said in a letter to city election commission executive director Lisa Artison that a review by his staff and the district attorney's office found cases where the party's database was corrupted and had ped digits on some homes, so otherwise valid addresses showed up as nonexistent.

In other cases, a check of the original handwritten registration cards showed digits had been transposed by clerks, which can be fixed by clerks at the polls.

Langley's letter said the review casts "doubt on the overall accuracy" of the GOP list and the way it was compiled.

At least some of the addresses will be investigated for fraud. Langley said the DA's office is focusing on about 900 names on the GOP list who registered since the April 6 election.

Elections board executive director Kevin Kennedy was working with Milwaukee city officials to put in place by Tuesday a system to flag any addresses that were still in question so poll workers could ask those voters for identification.

"What we're trying to do is find a solution that doesn't clog up the polling place," Kennedy said.

Voters with disputed addresses would be allowed to cast rare "challenge ballots" that could be scrutinized later in a recount or other investigation. The proposed system would subject Milwaukee voters to more scrutiny than in other cities.

Darrin Schmitz, executive director of the state GOP, noted in a news release that the 2000 presidential race in Wisconsin was decided by 5,708 votes - "nearly the amount of highly questionable voter registration addresses in Milwaukee."

The appeal calls the situation "evidence of extraordinary election fraud."

Democratic attorney Matt O'Neill called the party's complaint frivolous.

"How can they bring this appeal knowing it would be taking people off the rolls who are voters who have their address one digit off," O'Neill said.

Artison said the city would do "whatever it takes" to comply with any order from the state Elections Board. However, poll lists for the city's 312 voting wards were printed Tuesday and sealed inside voting machines that have already been delivered.

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