Close elections almost by definition conjure up countless explanations of what might have changed the result. As the fine voting-rights journalist Ari Berman notes, one of the more shocking and significant developments on November 8, 2016, was Donald Trump’s win in Wisconsin, a state that had not gone Republican in a presidential election since the 49-state Reagan landslide of 1984. Explanations were all over the place: Clinton’s stunning loss in Wisconsin was blamed on her failure to campaign in the state, and the depressed turnout was attributed to a lack of enthusiasm for either candidate. “Perhaps the biggest drags on voter turnout in Milwaukee, as in the rest of the country, were the candidates themselves,” Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times wrote in a post-election dispatch that typified this line of analysis. “To some, it was like having to choose between broccoli and liver.” Virtually no one, says Berman, talked about voter suppression, even though Scott Walker’s hyperpolarized state had enacted and fought successfully to preserve one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws, expected and designed to reduce minority turnout.
Articles about voting issues in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin: Elections official blames Schimel for keeping him from talking | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The head of the state Elections Commission says the attorney general is effectively stopping him from participating in a forum on Wisconsin’s gerrymandering case — a move that he says amounts to a top Republican limiting the speech of a Democrat. Attorney General Brad Schimel counters he is simply following a rule for lawyers to make sure one of his clients doesn’t talk to opposing attorneys without his own lawyers present. The dispute comes as state officials adjust to a new elections agency that is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Mark Thomsen, a Democrat and chairman of the commission, was invited to speak Friday on a panel that also features attorneys challenging Wisconsin’s election maps and voting laws. Thomsen wanted to participate in the forum but Schimel barred Thomsen and the attorneys from appearing together because Thomsen is a named plaintiff in the lawsuits at issue.
We Wisconsin political watchers are used to having the Badger State’s redistricting fights end up in court. So used to it, in fact, that some form of court has played a role in the matter since 1931. What is surprising this time, is that redistricting has ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. While much of the political world has their attention focused on Gill v. Whitford, the case which could decide the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, the reality for most Wisconsinites is that the case is nothing but the culmination of decades of backdoor deals, partisan incumbents protecting their own, recall elections to try to overturn previous election results, more. In other words: Politics as usual.
Two days before Wisconsin’s elections maps will be argued in what could be a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court, folks upset over what they say is a rigged system rallied in Milwaukee. Holding signs “Democracy Demands Fair Maps” and “Fair Maps for Fair Elections,” a crowd of around 150 people cheered and applauded speakers at the rally at Plymouth Church on Milwaukee’s east side. “I’m sort of insanely excited,” Mary Lynne Donohue said shortly before the gathering. Donohue, a resident of Wisconsin’s 26th Assembly District in Sheboygan County, is a plaintiff in the suit and is flying to Washington, D.C., Monday morning.
Wisconsin: Authorities didn’t tell Wisconsin about Russian hacking for a year | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin officials for a year were not told about specific attempts by the Russian government to gain access to the state’s voter registration database, the leaders of the state Elections Commission said Friday. Friday’s statement from the commission comes after a week of conflicting reports about what Russian agents attempted to do and when state and federal officials knew about it. Wisconsin systems were targeted in July and August 2016. Wisconsin officials were aware of the attempts but not that Russian government actors were behind them, according to Friday’s statement and public records. In one of the incidents, the attack was targeted at a different state agency, not the Elections Commission.
Wisconsin: State has made progress heading off hackers but more could be done | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Russian hacking attempts grabbed headlines this week, but they weren’t the Wisconsin elections agency’s first cyber attack with an international flavor. For a day in August 2011, an older version of the state’s elections website and several other state sites were knocked out of commission by a cyber vandal. The elections site had its homepage plastered with the phrase “hacked by sovalye” — a phrase that appeared to refer to the Turkish word for “knight.” Since then, the state government as a whole has gotten more serious about protecting itself from internet attacks — efforts that may have paid off last year amid Russian attempts to influence, or undermine confidence in, the November elections.
A variety of intelligence gathered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including some that is secret, led to the conclusion that Wisconsin’s elections system had been targeted last year by Russia, state election leaders said Friday. Elections officials repeated, as they said last week, there’s no evidence that Wisconsin’s elections systems were compromised or that Russian scans of state websites resulted in a security breach. “These scanning attempts were unremarkable, except for the fact that (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) later identified their source as being Russian government cyber actors,” said Michael Haas, the state’s elections administrator, and Mark Thomsen, chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, in a joint statement. The commission’s update Friday was the latest effort to explain fully what happened with the reported Russian run at Wisconsin’s systems, and the first to cite intelligence as a foundation for the federal report.
Wisconsin: State treasurer to Legislature: Penalize Dane County for funding voter ID study | Wisconsin State Journal
Republican State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk on Wednesday called on the Legislature to penalize Dane County for funding a UW-Madison study on the effects of the state’s voter ID law. Dane County spent $55,000 on the study by UW-Madison political science professor Ken Mayer. It concluded nearly 17,000 registered voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties may have been deterred from voting in November because of the controversial law. In a statement, Adamczyk called the taxpayer expenditure “a complete waste of money” partly because nearly three in four of those surveyed lived in Milwaukee County. He called for cutting $55,000 in shared revenue Dane County receives from the state in the next budget. The county receives about $3.9 million in shared revenue.
Wisconsin: State to end use of ballot-counting machine that had flaw highlighted in recount | Wisconsin State Journal
State elections officials plan to end the use of a type of ballot-tabulation machine after the statewide 2016 recount linked the machine to vote-counting discrepancies in the last election. State elections commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to de-certify the machine, the Optech Eagle, immediately after the 2018 election. The commission also required that if those machines are used in a recount before then, a hand recount would be required. A Wisconsin State Journal analysis of the recount results, published in January, highlighted the problems. The Optech Eagle, which processed about 10.6 percent of the ballots in the state, produced a higher error rate than other machines — likely because some voters didn’t comply with instructions to use a certain kind of ink or pencil to mark their ballots.
Wisconsin: In reversal, DHS says Russians did not seek to hack Wisconsin’s election system | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The federal Department of Homeland Security reversed itself Tuesday and told Wisconsin officials that the Russian government had not tried to hack the state’s voter registration system last year. Instead, Homeland Security said, the Russians had attempted to access a computer system controlled by another state agency. The development — disclosed during a meeting of the Wisconsin Elections Commission — came four days after federal officials told the state that Russians had tried to hack systems in Wisconsin and 20 other states. Juan Figueroa, a member of Homeland Security’s election infrastructure team, on Tuesday told state officials by email that Wisconsin’s voter registration system had not been targeted in a hacking attempt after all. He said Russians had tried to access a computer system run by the state Department of Workforce Development.