The law in Wisconsin is pretty clear: convicted felons whose civil rights have not been restored (i.e., who haven't completed their sentences) cannot legally vote.
Despite the law, many do and that rightfully angers a lot of law-abiding citizens.
So here's what our legislators and esteemed governor did about this -- they passed another law.
This law says the the computers over at the elections board and the department of corrections are supposed to talk to each other and if they think a convicted felon illegally voted, the elections board is supposed to notify the district attorney in the county where the alleged illegal voting occurred.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
The sound and reality are two different things.
The truth is that the legislature never set up or funded any mechanism for investigating these possible incidents of illegal voting. It's like buying a car without an engine and gas tank: looks good on the outside but isn't going anyway.
A case in point are the three names of convicted felons who alleged voted illegally that the elections board sent to the Kenosha County District Attorney's office earlier this year.
The first name was withdrawn by the elections board shortly after it was submitted -- their mistake.
The second name and address couldn't be verified.
The third name was of a woman who discharged her sentence in 1997 thus making two of the three alleged incidents unfounded.
More important, however, is that all the district attorney's office received was three names and addresses. Missing was any attempt at an investigation which, at a minimum, would be needed to show:
1. Where did the crime occur?
2. Who witnessed it?
3. Can the perpetrator be positively identified?
4. If so, who can identify the perpetrator and on what is the identification based?
5. Statements from the witnesses as to what they saw.
6. The alleged perpetrator's side of the story.
7. Physical evidence.
The above list isn't high tech police work, folks. It's the bare minimum the police would have to bring to the prosecutor in, say, a bad check case. As it stands, the information the elections board presents not only wouldn't sustain a criminal prosecution, it wouldn't even support a parking ticket. The newest rookie on any police department would know better.
But hey, the legislature and governor can say that they cracked down on felons who illegally vote. The elections board can say that they did something about it. But what they won't tell you is all they did is pass a law without funding any enforcement mechanism.
Illegal voting is wrong. But if it's really so serious, why did the legislature and governor fail to provide any vehicle for investigation of these alleged incidents?
I'll tell you why.
It's the same governor and legislature who have failed to fund the state prosecution system which, by the state's own figures is down 117 prosecutors. They want to sound tough about crime but at the end of the day they're really a bunch of ninnies.
And while they may be ninnies, they aren't necessarily dumb ninnies.
If the state actually properly funded criminal investigation and prosecution, there actually might be time and resources to look at corrupt politicians and those who fund them.
But, if you keep police and prosecutors barefoot and pregnant, they won't have much time or energy to do more than respond to the most serious violent crimes.
There's no such thing as a free lunch. The legislature passes lots of laws it never really intends to have enforced because, if it did, they'd also provide the resources to do so.
But the average Joe doesn't know this. All they see is the governor or some legislator chest thumping about how tough they are on crime.
Yeah, right. And I'm the new poster child for Jenny Craig.