Democrats have plenty of problems heading into the midterm elections – a spotty economy, depressed enthusiasm among key parts of their coalition and an energized right-wing movement. But they’ll also have to contend with the same strategies the right has used over and over again to try and win elections in this country. One of the most prevalent concerns voter suppression.
The group One Wisconsin Now has uncovered a voter suppression effort coordinated by tea party groups, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, and the state Republican Party, in an effort to knock thousands of high-propensity Democratic voters out of the election in the Badger State. Wisconsin has same-day registration, so the issue here is not purging the voter rolls. Instead, the plan is to challenge particular voters identified by the right as not having a residence in Wisconsin.
“Based on what we have heard, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin and leading Tea Party organizations are in collusion in an effort to suppress the ability of minorities and university students in Wisconsin to exercise their right to vote this November,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “We will be providing all of the evidence we have received on this wrongdoing to federal and state authorities so that they can investigate to ensure justice and democracy prevail.”
One Wisconsin Now obtained an audio recording it has verified as authentic from a June 16, 2010 meeting between the leaders of the state’s Tea Party movement, led by Tim Dake, head of the GrandSons of Liberty. Dake serves as a regular spokesperson for Wisconsin’s Tea Party organizations and is widely viewed as the movement’s Wisconsin leader. The full audio, available at One Wisconsin Now’s voter protection website, www.SaveWisconsinsVote2010.org, details the plans for a coordinated voter suppression efforts, which is anchored in challenging voter eligibility on Election Day this November 2.
You can read about the entire scheme and hear the audio at Save Wisconsin’s Vote 2010. Basically, the Republican Party of Wisconsin would identify minority and student voters in Wisconsin using the voter file. Americans for Prosperity would send mail to this list “indicating the voter must call and confirm their registration information, and telling them if they do not call the number provided they could be removed from the voter lists.” This is untrue, and also could be illegal coordination between a state party and an outside group. But this highly mobile group of voters may no longer live at the addresses provided, meaning that the mail sent by AFP would get bounced back to them. Then, tea party affiliates would send their members as monitors to the polls on Election Day, with a list of individuals whose postcards were returned to challenge those voters at the polls. This is textbook voter caging, a technique Republicans have used in past elections.
Again, Wisconsin has same-day registration, so these challenged voters could provide proof of residency and just register at a new address. But these voters would have no idea going into the polls that the would be challenged. So the goal is to force voters into provisional ballots, which can be challenged later, or possibly to intimidate them from voting altogether. Roughly 35% of provisional ballots are never counted, many times because they require some kind of follow-up information on the part of the voter.
We’ll see if the US Attorney chooses to investigate. But this is a time-honored tactic on the right. They yell and scream about voter fraud, but voter suppression is and has always been the bigger problem. And they perpetuate it every election.