In the midst of Wisconsin recall election, Wisconsin right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes took to the airwaves to fearmonger about voter fraud and defend the presence of the King Street Patriots -- a Texas-based Tea Party group that was accused of voter intimidation during the 2010 elections -- at Wisconsin polling locations.
The King Street Patriots and their anti-voter fraud effort “True the Vote” boast ties to notorious voter fraud hucksters like James O'Keefe, Hans von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams (who served as an attorney for True the Vote), and John Fund. The group promised to “man each and every polling location” in Wisconsin to “ensure the integrity of the election.” As Talking Points Memo reported of the King Street Patriots' activity in 2010 (emphasis added):
Poll watchers in Harris County, Texas -- where a Tea Party group launched an aggressive anti-voter fraud effort -- were accused of “hovering over” voters, “getting into election workers' faces” and blocking or disrupting lines of voters who were waiting to cast their ballots as early voting got underway yesterday.
Now, TPMMuckraker has learned, the Justice Department has interviewed witnesses about the alleged intimidation and is gathering information about the so-called anti-voter fraud effort.
Harris County, the biggest county in the state, is where a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots launched an anti-voter fraud initiative called “True the Vote,” which recruited poll watchers and amped up fears over groups like the community organizing group ACORN.
Sykes attempted to whitewash the spotty history of the group, describing their work as “outstanding” and casting them as merely a “citizen group” comprised of “Americans who are concerned about voter fraud.” His commentary also had the effect of ginning up the threat of voter fraud, which experts agree is not a significant problem. From his June 5 radio show on 620 WTMJ:
SYKES: In the city of Milwaukee, we have the mayor of Milwaukee, who's running for governor, who's made it absolutely clear how seriously he takes voter fraud.
TOM BARRETT [audio clip]: Well, name the name. Name the name. I'm waiting for the first name.
SYKES: There is a group that in fact would provide that name. You might remember the “Verify the Recall” folks -- this was a group, the headquarters is in Texas. They did an absolutely outstanding job of coming up and making a database that allowed people to find out who signed the Walker recall petitions. Right, remember all of that? Well, they're affiliated with a group called the King Street Patriots.
This letter, this came out yesterday. What shocked me the most, I think, about this, is that it came from Phil Walzak, Barrett for Wisconsin. It's the kind of thing that you would expect from some demented extremist like Graeme Zielinski.
“Steve, the King Street Patriots, a group of Texas extremists” -- they are, they are Americans who are concerned about voter fraud.
“Have arrived in Wisconsin. They believe that voter registration for the poor is un-American” -- flat-out lie -- “and would destroy the country.” Flat-out lie.
“They have already come to Wisconsin once and intimidated recall petition signers” -- lie -- “and now they've dropped so-called election observers into poll locations across the state.”
Yes, Mayor Barrett, because they are doing the job that you refuse to do. And the mayor of Milwaukee, instead of saying, “Hey, we've got nothing to hide, come in and observe,” puts out a letter on his own campaign stationery smearing this citizen group.
“Our voter protection team is on alert. We need an additional $100,000 before tomorrow to make sure every last vote is counted. After emailing threats and racial slurs ahead of the 2010 election failed to stop courageous voters from turning out to vote in Houston, the King Street Patriots showed up at the polls and intimidated voters directly.”
Tom Barrett is lying.
Later in the show, Sykes again fearmongered about voter fraud by highlighting calls and emails from listeners alleging that Michigan union workers were being shipped in to vote for Barrett:
SYKES: You mentioned the whole issue of voter fraud. When I had the attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, on -- I don't know if you heard him yesterday -- he didn't do anything to reassure me, to be quite honest, because it's so ridiculously easy.
Especially with the Greater Wisconsin Committee, you know, this lefty group sending out these letters with your neighbors' names and addresses telling you whether they've voted or not.
Trust me, there are going to be people armed with these little computer printouts at 6 to 8 o'clock with the names of people who have not yet voted. If people -- if somebody from Michigan, one of these union guys, does walk in to one of your Kenosha polling places and says,“I'm so and so,” there's nothing that stops that person from voting. Nothing.
While isolated incidents of voter fraud do occur, experts agree that widespread voter fraud is nonexistent. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) recently alleged that, as a result of voter fraud, Republicans “probably have to win with at least 53 percent of the vote.” The outrageous claim was repeated by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and was found "false" by PolitiFact.