District attorney visits Marquette University newsroom following voter fraud story

Prosecutors in Milwaukee County want the notes of two Marquette University reporters who wrote a story alleging widespread voter fraud among Marquette students in the Nov. 7 election.

The staff of the Marquette Tribune randomly surveyed 1,000 students in the days following the election. One hundred seventy-four of them said they voted more than once in the presidential election, according to a story written by Adam Kirby and Michael McGraw.

The poll was not scientific and guaranteed participants’ anonymity.

Following the Nov. 13 publication, Assistant District Attorney Michael Mahoney visited the Tribune office with the intent of talking to Kirby and McGraw and examining their notes.

Dean of Communications William Elliott and Tribune adviser Michael Heinz denied Mahoney entrance to the office and refused to grant him access to the notes, which the reporters said would yield little information to authorities because they include nothing more than tally marks. Tribune staff members did not record the names of students polled.

To date, no formal subpoena has been filed.

SPLC View: Like many states, Wisconsin case law protects reporters’ notes unless they are the last resort for law enforcement officials seeking relevant information in an ongoing criminal investigation. Moreover, federal law (and some state laws) prohibit law enforcement officials from searching newsrooms except in very limited circumstances.