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MILWAUKEE - This fall, election integrity will be supported by a new multijurisdictional action team established to investigate and prosecute election-related fraud. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced the formation of the Elections Fraud Task Force today.
"There is nothing more fundamental in our democracy than the right to vote. This primary tenet of political freedom, however, is undermined when people engage in unlawful voting or otherwise commit fraud on the elections process," said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. "We have an obligation to make certain our election system is fair and legal."
"During this election cycle, the City of Milwaukee Election Commission has reported numerous complaints of election-related irregularities to the Milwaukee County District Attorney. We appreciate the proactive approach of the Milwaukee Election Commission and recognize the need to thoroughly investigate each and every complaint. By adding Department of Justice prosecutorial and investigative resources to these matters before the election, to complement the work of the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office and the Milwaukee Police Department, I hope we will have cleaner elections and officials will have an enhanced ability to punish those who criminally violate the law."
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm echoed the need for a bipartisan approach to enforcing the election laws. "A fundamental responsibility of law enforcement is to ensure free and unfettered access to the ballot and to make certain that everyone's vote is properly counted," Chisholm stated. "The process has to be free from the influence of partisan politics whether real or perceived."
According to Van Hollen, the Elections Fraud Task Force is the formalization of a cooperative arrangement that has been ongoing. "Law enforcement that works together works better. Our agencies have a long history of cooperation and communication about individual cases and also how best to work together going forward. The Elections Fraud Task Force manifests this cooperation."
How will the Elections Fraud Task Force Operate?
The Milwaukee District Attorney's office, which has primary criminal jurisdiction, would remain the source for the intake of complaints. The District Attorney's office will be primarily responsible for the initial screening and prioritizing of complaints to determine which should be referred for further investigation. Assistant Attorneys General will participate in this review.
Upon referral, an investigative team comprising Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigation special agents and officers of the Special Investigation Unit of the Milwaukee Police Department officers will conduct the further investigation. Assistant Attorneys General in the Department of Justice and prosecutors in the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office will provide legal advice and guidance to the investigators as requested.
Upon the completion of the investigation, representatives of the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office and the Department of Justice will review the investigation's results.
In cases where it is concluded that charges are warranted, a determination will be made whether the Milwaukee County District Attorney or the Department of Justice will be the lead prosecutor, or whether the case will be handled jointly. In cases where the Wisconsin Department of Justice will handle the prosecution, it will act as special prosecutor upon request of the District Attorney or by court appointment.
In addition to investigating complaints, Division of Criminal Investigation special agents in election integrity issues will be available on Election Day to address Election Day complaints.