Ari Berman of The Nation has been tracking the issue of voter suppression for several years, and has had a lot more to write about since the GOP and ALEC started taking over increasing amounts of states in the 2010s. And nowhere has this type of “GOP takeover followed by voter suppression” sequence played out more than in Wisconsin, both in the restrictions on the vote, and in the success in helping the GOP’s chances for “victory” in elections.
Berman is out today in Mother Jones with a tremendous article titled “Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump.” Berman starts out by talking to Andrea Anthony, an African-American from the North Side of Milwaukee that had voted reliably for nearly 20 years. That turned out not to matter in November 2016.
She’d lost her driver’s license a few days earlier, but she came prepared with an expired Wisconsin state ID and proof of residency. A poll worker confirmed she was registered to vote at her current address. But this was Wisconsin’s first major election that required voters—even those who were already registered—to present a current driver’s license, passport, or state or military ID to cast a ballot. Anthony couldn’t, and so she wasn’t able to vote.If those 41,000 votes also turned out to be 77-18 Clinton, that would be a margin of 24,000 votes- enough to allow Clinton to win Wisconsin.
The poll worker gave her a provisional ballot instead. It would be counted only if she went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new ID and then to the city clerk’s office to confirm her vote, all within 72 hours of Election Day. But Anthony couldn’t take time off from her job as an administrative assistant at a housing management company, and she had five kids and two grandkids to look after. For the first time in her life, her vote wasn’t counted….
Anthony said her 19-year-old daughter and 21-year-old nephew, who didn’t drive regularly and had misplaced their licenses, were also stymied by the new law. “It was their first election, and they were really excited to vote,” she said. But they didn’t go to the polls because they knew their votes wouldn’t count. Both had planned to vote for Clinton.
On election night, Anthony was shocked to see Trump carry Wisconsin by nearly 23,000 votes. The state, which ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, saw its lowest turnout since 2000. More than half the state’s decline in turnout occurred in Milwaukee, which Clinton carried by a 77-18 margin, but where almost 41,000 fewer people voted in 2016 than in 2012. Turnout fell only slightly in white middle-class areas of the city but plunged in black ones. In Anthony’s old district, where aging houses on quiet tree-lined streets are interspersed with boarded-up buildings and vacant lots, turnout dropped by 23 percent from 2012. This is where Clinton lost the state and, with it, the larger narrative about the election.
Berman goes on to interview Milwaukee Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht, who quantifies how voter ID and other suppression made a big difference in the turnout of the Trump/Clinton race in Milwaukee.
“I would estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement,” he said later. “It is very probable that between the photo ID law and the changes to voter registration, enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin.”
A post-election study by Priorities USA, a Democratic super-PAC that supported Clinton, found that in 2016, turnout decreased by 1.7 percent in the three states that adopted stricter voter ID laws but increased by 1.3 percent in states where ID laws did not change. Wisconsin’s turnout dropped 3.3 percent. If Wisconsin had seen the same turnout increase as states whose laws stayed the same, “we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016,” the study said. These “lost voters”—those who voted in 2012 and 2014 but not 2016—”skewed more African American and more Democrat” than the overall voting population. Some academics criticized the study’s methodology, but its conclusions were consistent with a report from the Government Accountability Office, which found that strict voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee had decreased turnout by roughly 2 to 3 percent, with the largest drops among black, young, and new voters.
And as I've shown before, the real "success" in GOP voter suppression in November 2016 was how it was pinpointed to Dem-voting cities in southern Wisconsin.
Yes, there is some blame to be given to Team Hillary/DNC on this one, as they should have adjusted to the possibility that GOP election rigging would throw Rust Belt states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania into play. I also blame President Obama for not publically and forcefully calling out Walker and WisGOP for their attempts to keep Wisconsinites from voting, and for not federalizing troops to make sure those rights were able to be exercised.
But the biggest blame goes to Republicans, who have had a long-term plan to try to Block the Vote and increase their chances of winning. For years, they’ve lied to their AM radio-listening sheep about why voter ID is needed, as outlined by this infamous message from an MMAC lobbyist, which was sent to convicted criminal/GOP lobbyist Scott Jensen in 2011, and Jensen sent it on to Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling and other AM radio slime.
And they don’t even make a pretense of fairness these days, and are doing voter ID entirely for political gain, as US Rep. Glenn Grothman admitted in April 2016.
Berman’s article also reminds us of federal court testimony of a State Senate aide where Grothman and ALEC Queen/US Senate candidate Leah Vukmir were “frothing at the mouth” behind closed doors to rig elections in the GOP’s favor.
So it’s well-documented that Wisconsin Republicans will cheat and lie to stay in power. My responding questions to that fact are twofold-
1. Why do they have to pull this race-baiting and voter suppression BS in the first place? Is it because they know in their hearts that the general public doesn’t buy into their right-wing garbage policies?
2. If these WisGOP office-holders are indeed illegitimate, why do so many in Wisconsin still allow them to carry on as if they earned their spot in power? Isn’t “consent of the governed” still a thing?
Given that this election-rigging was successful in Wisconsin last year, Berman points out that GOPs will try even harder to cheat next year.
Control of Congress in 2018, not to mention the presidential election in 2020, hinges in part on states like Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia that have put new voting restrictions in place. The lesson from 2016 is terrifyingly clear: If voter suppression can work in a state like Wisconsin, with a long progressive history and a culture of high civic participation, it can work anywhere. And if those who believe in fair elections don’t start to take this threat seriously, history will repeat itself.On a related note, if a majority of Wisconsinites are not allowed to throw these people out of office by the ballot box, take a look through history and see where that leads to. HINT: it isn’t anywhere good, for either the average citizen, or the tyrants who cling to power without legitimacy.
It’s a great write-up from Berman on just how rigged things were here in 2016, and still are today. Read the whole thing.