George Will cited dubious John Fund anecdote to support column on voter fraud

To support his argument in his October 24 nationally syndicated column in The Washington Post that “liberalized registration and voting procedures do increase ... opportunities for fraud,” George F. Will quoted an anecdote from Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist and author John Fund's book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Democracy (Encounter Books, 2004) regarding a case in Wisconsin. Yet news reports contradict the anecdote Will cited.

Will wrote:

What liberalized registration and voting procedures do increase are opportunities for fraud, including the sort that Milwaukee television station WTMJ found in 2002. Fund says it “filmed Democratic campaign workers handing out food and small sums of money to residents of a home for the mentally ill in Kenosha, after which the patients were shepherded into a separate room and given absentee ballots.”

Fund's only citation for this example of voter fraud was "Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2002," on page 47 of his book. That article was a Journal editorial that titled “Chicago, Wisconsin”; Fund was a member of the Journal's editorial board at that time. Media Matters for America could not verify Fund's and the Journal's description of the television broadcast, but several news articles contradict their account.

From an article in the November 1, 2002, edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

[Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim] Doyle volunteer Frank Santapoalo provided kringle to [Dayton Residential Care Facility] residents and a maximum of three quarters to the bingo winners. The television report also shows the facility's activity director reminding the residents that there were absentee ballots available “upstairs” if they wished to vote.


Kenosha City Clerk Jean Morgan said Thursday that about half the 33 ballots delivered to the facility had been returned to her office. Morgan said the ballots are not dated, making it impossible to figure out from the form whether any residents filled out the ballots the day of the party.

From an article in the October 30, 2002, edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Video of the [October 14] Columbus Day bingo party that appeared on Milwaukee's WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) showed the Democratic Party employee dressed in a Doyle-for-Governor T-shirt and the Doyle volunteer wearing a Doyle campaign sticker. The Doyle volunteer is seen passing out quarters and kringle to residents, which the volunteer has said he supplied.

State law makes it illegal to provide anything worth more than $1 to get somebody to vote.

An employee of the facility tells the group in the video that they may vote later “upstairs.”

Lee Hamdia, Dayton's owner and administrator, said Tuesday two residents told him they did vote on Columbus Day, but he didn't know whether they filled out their ballots before or after the bingo party.


Hamdia, who described himself as a Republican, said the Doyle volunteer and Democratic Party worker did not encourage residents to vote for Doyle.

From an article in the October 25, 2002, edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Frank Santapoalo, a Doyle campaign volunteer who organized the event, and two Dayton employees have said they were not aware of anyone filling out an absentee ballot at the facility after the bingo games.

From an article in the October 24, 2002, edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Tammy Nerling, the [Dayton] facility's activity director, said she doesn't recall any of the facility's residents voting after the bingo game. Some were spooked by the presence of television cameras, she said. A handful had filled out absentee ballots before the Columbus Day event, Nerling said.

According to an article in the November 2, 2002, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a special prosecutor investigating the incident was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Doyle campaign had committed a criminal act, and no charges were filed.