As Courts Strike Down Discriminatory Voter ID Laws, RNC Delegates Cry ‘Voter Fraud’

Milwaukee election commissioner Bob Spindell | Credit: Kira Lerner


CLEVELAND, OHIO — As the Republican National Convention unfolded in Cleveland this week with the Republican Party officially calling for measures to make it harder for people to vote, two different courts across the country issued rulings easing those restrictions.

Federal judges this week ruled against voter identification laws in Wisconsin and then Texas, finding that they disproportionately impact minority voters and violate the Voting Rights Act. Those photo ID laws, which have become more prevalent across the country in the years since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the VRA in 2013, are formally included in the GOP platform.

“We support legislation to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting,” the document reads. “We strongly oppose litigation against states exercising their sovereign authority to enact such laws.”

Despite evidence that voter fraud is virtually non-existent and that photo ID laws keep younger, low-income, minority voters from participating in elections, Republican delegates told ThinkProgress the two recent court decisions will hurt democracy and compromise elections.

“Why do we even have any sort of laws? Why do we have speed limits? Why do we have any keys on any doors?” Milwaukee election commissioner and delegate Bob Spindell asked. “We need laws in place because if the election is such, there’s no way really to go back afterwards and see what had happened, if somebody was legit or somebody was not.”

In the ruling this week, the Wisconsin judge found that the fears of voter fraud are not legitimate enough to warrant the suppressive laws. A Wisconsin study examining the 2004 election found just seven cases of fraud among the 3 million votes cast in the state’s 2004 election, and none were the kind of fraud that would be prevented by a voter ID law.

Nonetheless, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) called the recent court ruling unfortunate and said it will allow Democrats to commit voter fraud.

“I find it interesting that the Democrats don’t care that you’ve got to present a photo ID to get medication, they don’t care about that, but they do care about photo ID for voting, which makes me wonder if they’re doing something wrong about the voting,” he told ThinkProgress from the floor of the RNC.

Also standing among Wisconsin’s delegation near the RNC arena stage, Spindell said Tuesday that he has been involved in the past several elections in Milwaukee and has seen “no problem whatsoever” with the state’s voter ID law.

“I don’t know of even one instance in the city of Milwaukee during the last couple of elections where there was a problem where somebody couldn’t have an ID or didn’t have an ID and couldn’t vote,” he said.

As ThinkProgress reported during the Wisconsin primary in April, Milwaukee students were forced to wait in long lines to register and cast ballots on election day, in large part because the state’s voter ID law does not accept student IDs. Across the state, non-white voters were more likely to request a free ID card and were more likely to be denied from the polls.

Noting that impact, the Wisconsin federal judge this week shot down the law because it would be “impossible or nearly impossible” for thousands of qualified voters to obtain a free ID card in order to cast a ballot. The ruling will allow Wisconsin citizens to vote without ID this November if they sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.

Spindell said that the acceptance of affidavits, coupled with Wisconsin’s allowance of same-day voter registration, will lead to people committing voter fraud. “You can just walk in with all sorts of IDs, whether it be a payroll check or any kind of ID,” he said. “What can happen is they can register and go vote, and there’s no way of checking on them into well after the election.”

Texas' delegation watches the RNC speakers.

Texas’ delegation watches the RNC speakers | CREDIT: KIRA LERNER

In perhaps an even more important decision for civil rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit handed down a decision Wednesday finding that Texas’ voter ID law violates the VRA. But instead of striking down the law, the appeals court left it up to the district court to decide how to move forward and whether or not the law should be in place during the general election.

If the court strikes the law down before November, Jim Lowder, a Texas delegate who serves as the GOP chairman in Amarillo, Texas, said that we can expect to see Democrats committing voter fraud.

“How many cases of Republican voter fraud have we had in the past several years? Virtually none,” he told ThinkProgress. “How many of Democrat voter fraud? There have been some. We’re not trying to go after anybody, but we need to do the right thing by everybody.”

As the Fifth Circuit noted this week, studies have found that Texas’ voter ID disproportionately hurts minorities — mainly Hispanic and black voters. Yet Republican lawmakers and delegates in Texas insist that the laws have no negative effects.

“I’ve worked in the polls,” Lowder said. “We have a real fair system. Anybody that tries to discourage someone else is not allowed to do so. I’m concerned about voter fraud, but I’m concerned that everybody that can legally vote can do so.”

A total of 33 states will have laws in place this year requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. As many advocates and reporters have noted, those laws have the ability to swing elections in favor of Republicans.

Some lawmakers, like Grothman, have even admitted that their purpose is to help Republicans win elections. From Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday, Grothman attempted to explain his admission that photo ID will help Republicans win in Wisconsin.

“I think the cleaner the election, the better chance the Republicans have,” he said.

Kira Lerner

Seth Meyers utterly destroys Republicans for trying to win elections by screwing over voters

Seth Meyers (YouTube)

Seth Meyers (YouTube)


Seth Meyers blamed lengthy delays faced by Wisconsin voters on the state’s new voter ID laws — which one Republican lawmaker admitted were intended to help his party maintain its grip on power.

State Rep. Glenn Grothman told a reporter after Tuesday’s primary that he expected the new law to help the GOP presidential candidate, whoever that is, win the state’s general election.

“Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up and now we have voter ID and I think voter ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well,” Grothmann said.

Perhaps, Meyers said, the lawmaker had said too much.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Meyers said. “You’re not supposed to say that out loud. That’s like a dude rolling up in a Corvette and saying, ‘You know, I bought this to compensate for my tiny penis.’”

Meyers said the mess in Wisconsin is just the latest example of how poorly run the nation’s voting process has become.

Similar laws caused chaos in North Carolina — where one Indian immigrant was ordered to spell his own name before he voted.

“That’s terrible news for the nation’s Kaileys,” Meyers said. “So many ways you can go, Kayleigh. This is America — the only time you should have to spell your own name is when you’re screaming it on a call with Time Warner Cable.”

He said the most shocking example of electoral dysfunction was last month in Arizona, where thousands of voters waited hours to vote after officials shut down polling places in a cost-cutting move.

“If you’ve been waiting in line so long the pizza place is willing to deliver to you, you’re going to be frustrated,” Meyers said. “‘Is that a house or an apartment?’ ‘It’s a line — I live in a line.’”

The official who decided to eliminate 70 percent of her county’s polling places blamed the mess on “voters for getting in line.”

“Before they showed up it was a perfectly nice sidewalk,” Meyers said.

He asked viewers to imagine what will happen if one of these states turns out to be instrumental in deciding the next president, saying the situation could lead to enough fiasco like the 2000 election in Florida.

“No one wants to see any of these candidates in an Al Gore sadness beard,” Meyers said.

Watch the entire segment posted online by Late Night With Seth Meyers:

The quiet, vicious racism of Scott Walker’s Wisconsin

The quiet, vicious racism of Scott Walker's Wisconsin

(Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill)


Pity Scott Walker and the Republicans of Wisconsin. Here they have taken the time and energy to gain power partly by using racial dog whistles, and along comes a group of white nationalists to make the once-implicit coded language suddenly explicit. And it’s happening just as the political world turns its eyes to the state for today’s big primary. With a voter-ID law passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Walker and threatening to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of mostly minority voters in this election, the last thing the Koch brothers’ favorite governor wants is people who are going to say the quiet parts out loud.

Which is why Walker on Monday was condemning the robocalls from the American National Super PAC and its white nationalist founder William Johnson that have been flooding landlines in Wisconsin over the last few days. The call — narrated by an elderly woman in the soothing tones of your racist grandmother complaining over Sunday dinner about her new black neighbors — assures listeners that Trump “will respect all women and help preserve western civilization.” In the world of white nationalists, this is code for “Will keep the hordes of Latino immigrants and black welfare cheats from stealing your tax dollars and destroying America as you know it.”

As racist robocalls go, this was fairly mild, at least compared to Johnson’s efforts in earlier primaries. But it is worth noting that Walker’s upset, if only for the irony. After all, the lightning rod of a governor, a man so dull his idea of spicing up his food probably means pouring castor oil on it, built his power base in the state in the almost-exclusively-white suburbs of Milwaukee, one of the most racially polarized metropolitan areas of the country.

The New Republic took a deep dive into Walker’s world two years ago. What the magazine found was a city and its suburbs even more segregated than most, where the chairman of one county’s Republican Party could still refer to one mostly African-American neighborhood in Milwaukee, in 2014, as “the colored section.” Where white flight between 1960 and 2010 was so high it tripled the population of three formerly rural counties around Milwaukee, while the percentage of African-American residents in those three counties is under 2 percent. Where the black poverty rate within the city is the second-highest in the country.

This is the world that has coddled Walker as he traveled up through the ranks of the Republican Party. As a member of the state Assembly, the executive of Milwaukee County, and now governor, he has spent his entire career deeply slicing budgets for programs that benefit inner-city African-Americans, such as public transportation. He has also pushed for private-school vouchers that decimate public education and advocated for privatizing prisons, all while cutting taxes to ensure that funding levels for these civic outlays are unlikely to be restored anytime soon, if ever.

He has done all this in a climate of racial polarization fueled by talk-radio hosts like Charlie Sykes (whom Donald Trump, ironically, ran afoul of just last week). Local talk radio, according to the New Republic story, traffics in the same sorts of white resentment politics that have fueled the rise of national stars like Rush Limbaugh over the last thirty years. Talkers like Sykes (who regularly refers to Michelle Obama as “Mooch”) have grown rich spewing racial divisiveness. And one of their most regular guests, throughout his long career in Wisconsin politics, has been Scott Walker, who would verbally wink at Sykes’s listeners while talking about policies that would never harm the host’s mostly white audience.

Given this environment, why wouldn’t a white nationalist like William Johnson think he has found some fertile territory to shill for Donald Trump, who is basically one white bedsheet and pillowcase with eyeholes away from being a KKK Grand Wizard?

Yet Walker and some of his allies in the local media have rallied to condemn Trumpas a big-city know-nothing, a polarizing figure whom Sykes, in what surely will enter the pantheon of history’s least self-aware statements, complained is failing to adhere to Wisconsin’s “tradition of civility and decency.”

That this is all happening during the first election in which Wisconsin’s new voter-ID law is in effect only increases the irony. The law is part of the broader effort by Republicans both in Wisconsin and other states to limit the voting power of traditional Democratic constituencies. The Wisconsin law could disenfranchise as many as 300,000 mostly minority and student voters who want to cast votes today. Since this law is only possible because the Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, which was first passed to protect the voting rights of minorities, it is impossible to see it as a colorblind act that, as defenders of voter-ID laws so often tell us, is only here to protect against nonexistent voter fraud.

Of course it is unlikely that Walker and his allies see themselves as racists. But that does not change the racist effects of the laws they pass and the poison they spew at Milwaukee’s suburban commuters as they sit in traffic on a daily basis. Donald Trump has simply taken this inherent racism and brought it out into the open. In doing so, he has attracted the support of outright racists – excuse me, “white nationalists” – like William Johnson, and all of a sudden Wisconsin’s Republicans, like many party members nationwide, are doing their best impression of Captain Renault, proclaiming themselves shocked, SHOCKED to discover there is gambling going on here. Their act would be a lot more believable if they had not spent their careers advocating for a worldview that, stripped of the code words and dog whistles, is nearly indistinguishable from the one they now decry.

Republicans lied in Wisconsin: Here’s how you know the state’s voter ID law is a complete sham

Republicans lied in Wisconsin: Here's how you know the state's voter ID law is a complete sham

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas – RTR4NN60(Credit: Reuters)


No rule in politics is absolute, but, generally speaking, you’d be well served to keep this one in mind: If a politician is not willing to spend money on something they say they support, then their support is about as real as Santa Claus.

Unless you view politics as nothing more than an entertaining pastime for overeducated squares who weren’t cute enough to make it in Hollywood — i.e., you actually look forward to “nerd prom,” God help you — then the point of the whole endeavor is to get big things done.

And getting big things done not only requires money but, perhaps more importantly, requires conflict. This is often because someone’s going to have to pony up, I’ll admit. But that’s not always the case; and sometimes the rejection involves turning down money, too. (See: the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.)

All of which is to say something that’s been said about politics countless times already, and will no doubt be said again and again and again: Talk is cheap. And cheap is something that public policy — if it’s good, at least — usually is not.

So when you read this report from Pro Publica’s Sarah Smith, what it should tell you, as if you didn’t know already, is that the legislature in Wisconsin couldn’t care less when it comes to improving its elections. Because that is not what its voter ID law is about:

On April 5, when voters cast ballots in Wisconsin’s Republican and Democratic primaries, the state’s controversial voter ID bill will face its biggest test since Governor Scott Walker signed it into law in 2011. For the first time in a major election, citizens will be required to show approved forms of identification in order to vote. The law mandates that the state run a public-service campaign “in conjunction with the first regularly scheduled primary and election” to educate voters on what forms of ID are acceptable.

But Wisconsin has failed to appropriate funds for the public education campaign. The result is that thousands of citizens may be turned away from the polls simply because they did not understand what form of identification they needed to vote.

Doesn’t look too good for those who argue that, contrary to Democrats’ claims, voter ID laws are not intended to suppress the Democratic vote, does it? Well, it gets worse.

Because this isn’t a case of bureaucratic miscommunication; this isn’t about the state government’s left hand not knowing what its right hand is doing. According to Smith’s reporting, the decision to provide a statewide education campaign with all of zero dollars was about as intentional-looking as it gets:

Wisconsin’s failure to fund these public-service ads comes after a clash between the Government Accountability Board, the nonpartisan agency responsible for producing voter education materials, and the Republican-controlled legislature. In October, the agency met with Republican State Senator Mary Lazich, who was a primary sponsor of the voter ID bill in 2011, to inquire after funding and received a tepid response.

The board told Lazich that it would need $300,000 to $500,000 from the state legislature to broadcast advertisements. The legislature had twice appropriated money for public information campaigns during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, but the ads barely hit the airwaves before court injunctions delayed the law from going into effect.

According to Kevin Kennedy, the board’s director and general counsel, Lazich thanked the board for the information, but didn’t make any promises. Lazich did not respond to requests for comment from ProPublica.

It gets better (by which, again, I mean worse). Not only did Lazich essentially ghost the Government Accountability Board, but the board was unable to find some other ally in the legislature. Why? Because the legislature was in the process of destroying the board altogether:

After the meeting, the Government Accountability Board decided against making a formal funding request to the legislature, which had already introduced a bill to dismantle the agency.

“We weren’t sure we would have a receptive audience,” Kennedy told ProPublica.

Two days after the meeting, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to replace the nonpartisan board with two partisan agencies by the end of June 2016. Since 2012, Republicans have attacked the board after it investigated, among other things, whether Governor Walker coordinated with outside political groups during the recount battle that gripped the state. Judicial orders stalled the investigation, and the board eventually took itself out of the probe. Walker, cleared of wrongdoing, survived the scandal.

The whole thing is so shameless and tawdry, you could be forgiven for wanting to simply shake your head and think about something else. And if you did, you’d simply be following the state legislature’s lead.

After all, it’s not like there’s a problem, here — at least as far as they see it. With anywhere between 200,000 to 350,000 Wisconsin citizens potentially facing disenfranchisement, according to Smith’s report, the voter ID law is on pace to work exactly as intended. Not in word, but deed.

“Scott Walker, Please Come Home” says Major Wisconsin Editorial

Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the North Carolina Republican Party convention in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this month | Associated Press


The headline just says it all. Things are so bad here in the Legislature that the newspaper is begging Scott Walker to come home, if only for a short time.This isn’t from The Onion, but from the most highly read Wisconsin newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One that has endorsed Scott Walker, tends to ignore his bad news, and prints his talking points like Gospel.

But here in Wisconsin, the budget he proposed last winter is foundering, and not because of Democratic opposition but because his Republican colleagues can’t come to terms. Last week, Republican leaders were sniping at each other over whether Assembly Republicans wanted to delaythe reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange to build pressure for increasing the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.The impasse is apparently over how to pay for the transportation budget and how to finance a deal for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee. These are big issues, and they deserve Walker’s attention. In addition, as an editorial on Friday on this page noted, there are a host of items in the budget that simply shouldn’t be there. Mainly, they’re non-budget items sneaked into the budget with little discussion or public input, a practice that candidate Walker decried in 2010. In an informal Journal Sentinel poll last week, readers overwhelmingly were giving the Legislature an F grade on its handling of the budget.

(bolding is mine)I’ve also written about the mayhem that Republican Legislators brought to the budget process while Walker has been out campaigning (unannounced) for President. And, in an editorial last week, the newspapers’ editorial staff seemed to agree.

But there’s another problem with this budget: It’s so full of non-budget dead weight that it’s kind of amazing it doesn’t just sink of its own accord.On their own, many of these items are worthy of discussion and may be even worthy of passage. But most are policy matters that have little or nothing to do with the state’s fiscal books. They deserve full and separate consideration — including public hearings and a healthy public debate — before they become law. Instead, they’ve been quietly inserted into the budget, often in the wee hours, to avoid public scrutiny. Citizens should demand they be removed from the budget; legislators should have the decency to do so.

(bolding is mine)

It’s bad enough that Walker has not only completely flip flopped on his 2010 campaign promise to not use the budget for non-budgetary items, but crammed his policy agenda into each and every budget (starting with busting the unions of all public employees in Wisconsin in his infamous Budget Repair Bill).  Now Republican Legislators have followed Walkers’ lead inserting every item on their policy wish list into the budget this year.

For example, in 2010, Gov. Scott Walker’s  campaign website proclaimed he would “Strip policy and pork projects from the state budget. The budget process should be about funding essential government services based on the taxpayers’ ability to pay. It should not be about horse trading for special interest groups or establishing talking points for the next campaign.”The governor was right then, but his office turned its back on that sound good government philosophy by loading up this budget with policy items, including items on education, long-term health care and natural resources. And then the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee got into the act.

Walker has found it to be a great strategy for getting policy items passed since there are so many of them that most go unnoticed in an 1800 page budget. And even those that do get noticed, like his recent attempt to change the mission statement of our State University system, are only occasionally removed when lame excuses (“the University requested the change” – lie) and placing blame elsewhere (“it was a drafting error” – lie) don’t work. The rest simply pass right on through with no debate and no discussion.

Loading up the budget with non-budgetary items is no way to run a government. Walker acknowledged that in 2010.

Yes, he acknowledged that in his campaign. By now, however, we know that Walker says one thing during a campaign and then does something else after he’s elected;  and this should serve as a warning to Republican primary voters. He doesn’t keep his promises.What you get with Walker is government by surprise. Well, not so much “governing” either. It become more like imperial “ruling” than governing. Using his elected office to repay donors and batter real or imagined enemies.

Walker has serious problems back home which have worsened with him away. WEDC, his “job creation agency” is awash in corruption, the budget has turned into a carnival side show, and Republicans, who dominate the State Legislature, are bickering like toddlers over who gets to toss more goodies into the State Budget.

As terrible as Scott Walker has been as Governor of Wisconsin, his absence has created a leadership vacuum that far too many Republicans are fighting to fill. And that chaos is being noticed.

In the Sunday editiorial, they’ve finally remembered Walkers’ campaign pledge last year that he “only wants to be Governor”.

When he was running for re-election last year, he told a group of Journal Sentinel opinion writers and reporters that he really wanted to be Wisconsin’s governor, and that he would act as such in his second term. He would actually govern. I don’t think he’s doing that; and that’s certainly the perception of many in the public, who think he’s running for president full-time. Maybe he’s working behind the scenes, but if he is, it’s so far back that no one knows he’s there.

Walker wants the Presidency so badly that he’s not even pretending to be Governor anymore. And when your media pals and supporters notice that, it isn’t good.Your media pals need you so come on back home, Governor. Fluffing you up is hard enough already considering how much damage you’ve done to the state. And the current evident corruption and mayhem make your media poodles have to work even harder.


Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Wisconsin Voter ID Law

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

TPM LiveWire

The justices’ action means the state is free to impose the voter ID requirement in future elections, and is further evidence that the court put the law on hold last year only because the election was close at hand and absentee ballots already had been mailed with no notification of the need to present photo IDs.

The court did not comment on its order.

Wisconsin was one of four states in which a dispute over voting rules reached the Supreme Court last fall. The other states were North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Of the four states, only Wisconsin’s new rules were blocked.

Wisconsin’s photo ID law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011. The GOP argues the mandate is a common sense step toward reducing election fraud. Democrats maintain no widespread fraud exists and that the law is really an attempt to keep Democratic constituents who may lack ID, such as the poor, minorities and the elderly, from voting.

The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges put it on hold and it hasn’t been in place for any election since.

The ACLU and allied groups persuaded a federal judge in Milwaukee to declare the law unconstitutional last year. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago later ruled that the law did not violate the Constitution.

The Supreme Court refused to disturb that ruling on Monday.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Scott Walker’s plan for Wisconsin education: Slash it to the bone

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker talks with other governors before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama to address the National Governors Association at the White House in Washington February 23, 2015. .REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) | (Reuters)

Daily Kos

As Gov. Scott Walker ramps up his 2016 presidential campaign, he’s using Wisconsin to show what he’d like to do to the entire United States of America. Right now, his budget—the one that would cut $300 million from universities while including $220 million in bonds for a professional basketball arena—is being debated, and Alice Ollstein takes a look at its effects on education:

Funding at UW-Rock County would be stripped back to levels not seen since 1998, and the school’s dean has said faculty layoffs are almost certain. The situation appears even more dire at UW-Eau Claire, where administrators have offered buyouts to a record 325 faculty and staff members — about a quarter of the campus’ employees. These so-called “go away packages” have been offered to nearly half of the school’s political science department. UW-Stevens Point reports they willeliminate several entire majors, even for studentscurrently enrolled in them.And it’s not just higher education feeling the pain.

Public primary schools across Wisconsin will lose about $127 million in education aid next year, largely by scrapping a special $150 per-student fund that Wisconsin school districts received over the past two years.

The struggling Milwaukee public schools are set to lose more than $12 million.

Prediction: After cutting $12 million from the Milwaukee public schools, Walker will grandstand about how the schools are failing the children, using that to push privatization.

This is looming widespread disaster. In higher education, we’re talking about a significant number of jobs, including both faculty and staff. Students will be affected, too, and not just by bigger classes and less advising and support: If you eliminate entire majors, the students currently in those majors are going to have to scramble to graduate. It may take some longer to put together the courses needed for a new major, meaning they’ll accumulate more student loans. If the students had career plans based on a specific major, they’ll be graduating and looking for jobs at a disadvantage. In K-12 schools, already hit hard by Walker’s 2011 budget, another round of cuts could mean fewer guidance counselors, less art and music education, bigger classes, scantier classroom supplies—generally a barebones, second-class education.

Which Scott Walker would like to export to the rest of us starting in 2017. At least where Republican governors and state legislatures haven’t already beat him to it.

With Voter ID Law On Hold, Wisconsin Republican Urges Supporters To ‘Challenge’ Voters At The Polls

Voters | Credit: AP Images

Think Progress

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN—Less than one week after the Supreme Court delayed the implementation of Wisconsin’s voter ID law until after the midterm elections, a GOP official urged Republican activists to take matters into their own hands to prevent voter fraud.

Milwaukee County’s Republican Elections Commissioner Rick Baas warned a crowd of volunteers and supporters Friday night to be “concerned about voter fraud,” and urged the hundreds of attendees to take an “extra step of vigilance.” “You as a Wisconsin resident can challenge people who are not supposed to be voting,” he said at the Milwaukee County Republicans event. “You’ve got to do that.”

Under state law, voters, election workers, official observers, or any member of the public can challenge the validity of someone’s vote, but to do so, they must swear under oath that they have firsthand knowledge that the person is not qualified to vote. A challenge cannot be based on a mere suspicion or hunch.

“Providing those parameters would be important to any discussion related to voter challenges,” Milwaukee City Election Commission Director Neil Albrecht told ThinkProgress. “Failure to provide has the potential to incite unsubstantiated challenges and a disruption to voting.”

Others echoed this concern that Baas’ invocation for “challenging” at the polls would hurt legitimate voters. “There’s a fine line by legitimate questions and harassment and intimidation,” said Darryl Morin, the Midwest vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Morin told ThinkProgress that as a Republican it is “disappointing” to see such rhetoric coming from “a party that claims to be reaching out to minorities.”

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) signed a law earlier this year allowing poll observers to be as close as three feet to a voter. Democratic lawmakers and progressive organizers haveexpressed concern that the measure could lead to greater harassment and intimidation and Morin said that some of LULAC’s Wisconsin members have already experienced such treatment when going to cast a ballot.

“We completely agree that the vote is a very precious thing, but to put barriers before people who are eligible to vote just should not be allowed. When you look at the law that was passed in Wisconsin and the people who were impacted—the majority of them Hispanics or African Americans—it’s hard to believe that it happened just by chance,” Morin added.

LULAC, which has been involved in voting rights struggles since the days of the poll tax, has been battling Wisconsin’s voter ID law for the past few years on behalf of its Latino members who would be disenfranchised by the measure. Morin said he’s frustrated by politicians who feed “the false impression that if you have a dark tint to your skin, you’re obviously illegal and a criminal and you’re dealing drugs.”

Commissioner Baas was one of many officials at the Milwaukee County Republican Party event to lament the recent Supreme Court ruling putting Wisconsin’s voter ID law on hold for this November’s election.

Republican Dan Sebring, who is running for the fourth time against Gwen Moore (D-WI) for her seat in the House of Representatives, said that the ruling “stinks,” while the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Brad Schimel, called it “bad news”—prompting the whole crowd to boo the high court. He then counseled them: “The best way you can prevent someone from stealing your vote is if you use your vote. Make sure no one can go in and take your line in the ballot box.”

Schimel and others at the event said repeatedly that they were concerned about voter fraud. But countless studies in Wisconsin and around the country have found in-person voter impersonation to be nearly non-existent. And the kinds of fraud that are more common—like fake absentee ballots, vote buying, fake registration forms, and ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam—would not be prevented by a voter ID law. And most ironically, the one case of voter fraud cited in court is against an elderly supporter of Walker.

10 things you need to know today: October 10, 2014

And the winner is...
And the winner is… (Brad Barket/Invision/AP Images)

The Week

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Supreme Court blocks Wisconsin’s voter ID law, and more

1. Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi win the Nobel Peace Prize
Children’s rights activists Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Yousafzai, 17, was shot in the head by a Taliban militant for her work promoting girls’ education, and has since become an icon for the cause of children’s schooling. Satyarthi, 60, has shown “great personal courage” by leading peaceful protests against the exploitation of children, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. Malala became the youngest person to ever win the prize, by more than a decade. [The New York Times]


2. The Supreme Court blocks Wisconsin’s voter ID law
The Supreme Court on late Thursday blocked Wisconsin from implementing a voter identification law in next month’s mid-term elections. The law, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011, requires voters to produce a photo ID at the polls. A federal judge ruled it unconstitutional, saying it would unfairly burden minority voters. An appeals court reinstated it, but the justices put it on hold while they consider whether to hear the case. On the same day, a federal judgeoverturned a similar law in Texas. [USA Today, NPR]


3. Signs of slowing growth in Europe contribute to U.S. stock plunge
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped by 335 points, or 2 percent, to 16,659 on Thursday in the blue-chip-stock index’s sharpest one-day plunge in more than a year. The Standard & Poors 500 big-stock index also lost 2 percent, and the small-stock Russell 2000 plunged by 2.5 percent. The losses, which came one day after the Dow and the S&P 500 made their biggest daily gains of 2014, came as data suggested Europe’s economic growth was slowing. [USA Today, Bloomberg]


4. Investigators say crash victim in Ukraine was wearing an oxygen mask
Dutch prosecutors revealed Thursday that the body of an Australian passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was found wearing an oxygen mask. No other bodies were found wearing oxygen masks, but the new evidence suggested that some passengers might have been aware that their airliner was going down after apparently being hit by a missile over a rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine as it traveled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July. [Sydney Morning Herald]


5. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un misses important ceremonies
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not attend ceremonies marking the anniversary of the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party — an important national holiday — fueling speculation about his health. Kim, who is believed to be 31 years old, has not been seen in public since Sept. 3. “Today was a crucial day for him to return,” said Leonid Petrov, a Korean studies specialist at Australian National University. “More and more questions are mounting and his absence inevitably leads to uncertainty about who’s leading the country.” [Los Angeles Times]


6. Mexico arrests alleged Juarez drug cartel leader
Mexican authorities have arrested Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the alleged leader of the Juarez drug cartel, government officials said Thursday. His capture was the latest in a series of high-profile gains the Mexican government has made in an offensive against drug lords this year. The Juarez cartel is one of the country’s most powerful drug trafficking operations. Carrillo, who is known as “the Viceroy,” allegedly led a war with the rival Sinaloa gang that killed thousands between 2009 and 2011. [BBC News]


7. Amazon plans its first brick-and-mortar store
Digital retail powerhouse Amazon announced Thursday that it planned to open its first physical store — in midtown Manhattan — in time for this year’s holiday shopping season. The first brick-and-mortar Amazon outlet will function mostly as a warehouse capable of delivering stocked items within the city on the same day they are ordered. It also will process returns, exchanges, and pickup orders. [The Wall Street Journal]


8. Texas sheriff’s sergeant tests negative for Ebola
Texas health officials announced Thursday that a sheriff’s sergeant who had briefly entered the apartment of the late Ebola patient Thomas Duncan had not contracted the virus. The sergeant, Michael Monnig, was hospitalized after reporting to an urgent-care center outside Dallas complaining of stomach pain. He tested negative for Ebola. So far, none of the 48 people being monitored after having contact with Duncan have shown any sign of having contracted Ebola. [The New York Times]


9. Prosecutor seeks NFL star Adrian Peterson’s arrest over apparent drug confession
A Texas prosecutor has asked a judge to revoke the bond and order the arrest of Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson, after the running back told an employee at a drug-testing agency during a urinalysis that he had “smoked a little weed,” according to court papers publicized on Thursday. The Montgomery County District Attorney’s office said drug use would be a clear violation of the terms of Peterson’s $15,000 bond that got him freed after he was charged with felony child abuse. [USA Today]


10. Jan Hooks, an ex-SNL comic, dies at 57
Former Saturday Night Live star Jan Hooks has died after a long illness, her representative confirmed Thursday. She was 57. Hooks did memorable impersonations of everyone from Sinead O’Connor to Nancy Reagan to Diane Sawyer as part of an all-star cast that included Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, and Nora Dunn. Her five-year run on SNL ended when she left to join the hit CBS sitcom Designing Women. [Newsday]

Militia Group Plans To Target African-American Democrats At Polling Places In Wisconsin

African Americans Voting


Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this similar to KKK  tactics of the 50’s?


A militia group in Wisconsin is planning to target African-American Democrats at polling places in order to suppress the vote and keep Republican governor Scott Walker in office.

Here is a Twitter exchange where the group details their plan:


A visit to the group’s Facebook page features makes it clear exactly who they are targeting. All of the pictures on the page feature African-Americans. The group is trying to get African-Americans who may have outstanding warrants arrested in order to keep them from voting. The group wants people to report those they suspect of having warrants out on them to the police on election day, “Do the community a favor and keep an eye out for people wanted on warrants and report them to the police on election day.”

The “poll watchers” also plan on harassing and following people who they suspect of being wanted on warrants to their homes. The plan seems to be to use the police to intimidate African-Americans into not voting in November’s election.

The group admits that they are targeting Democrats. They aren’t exactly subtle in making it clear that they are targeting African-American voters. The scheme is an attempt to intimidate African-American voters while getting around the Voting Rights Act. The point of this campaign isn’t to get felons off the streets. The “poll watchers” are trying to keep African-Americans away from the polls.

The fact that they are targeting a specific group of individuals based on race and perceived political affiliation means that their operation is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. According to the Justice Department, “The administration of elections is chiefly a function of state government. However, federal authorities may become involved where there are possible violations of federal law. In cases where intimidation, coercion, or threats are made or attempts to intimidate, threaten or coerce are made to any person for voting or attempting to vote, the Department of Justice can consider whether there is federal jurisdiction to bring civil claims or criminal charges under federal law. Depending on the nature of the allegations, they may fall into the jurisdiction of different parts of the Department. If you have information about allegations of intimidation, please contact us.”

Wisconsin Republicans are desperate to keep Scott Walker in office, Currently, Gov. Walker is tied with Democrat Mary Burke in the polls. A voter intimidation effort that could prevent African-Americans from voting might be enough to get Walker reelected. The right-wing Wisconsin poll watching group is planning on engaging in illegal activity. The group is just getting started, which is why it is a perfect time to send the message that these tactics will not be tolerated.

You can contact the Justice Department here, and request that the election be monitored.

The right to vote must be protected, and those who attempt to intimidate voters need to be held accountable.


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