Wisconsin

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Editorials: Wisconsin legislature should reject secrecy bill | Daniel I. Weiner and Brent Ferguson/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Last week, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that would dramatically reduce voters’ ability to know which corporations, unions and wealthy individuals are funding state campaigns. The Senate is expected to vote on a companion bill (SB 292) shortly. Supporters of the measure say these changes are required by recent court decisions. Don’t believe it. If passed, SB 292 would radically change the law, not comply with it. As we explained in a letter to legislators this week, the Senate should vote it down.

Full Article: Wisconsin Legislature should reject secrecy bill.

Voting Blogs: It must be the Cheese: 96.8% Valid Signature Rate for Wisconsin Recall Petitions | electionsmith

The staff of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board earlier this week recommended to the Board that there were a sufficient number of valid signatures on the recall petitions submitted for Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Kleefisch to order a recall election. Were there ever! The staff’s reports are available on the Board’s website. I’ve been studying ballot initiatives for some time now (nearly 20 years), and I have to admit, I am stunned by the high validity rate for the recall elections. I’ve been involved as an expert in lawsuits, hired to defend and challenge the legitimacy of signatures gathered for initiative and popular referendum petitions which have a far lower rate. For example, in the state of Washington, as I document with Todd Donovan in our 2008 book chapter on the incidence of signature gathering fraud in ballot measure campaigns, an average of nearly 19% of signatures submitted on initiative and popular referendum petitions between 1990 and 2006 were ruled to be invalid, mostly due to names on petitions not being found in the voter file. And compared with other states, Washington has a fairly high validity rate for signatures submitted on petitions.

Full Article: It must be the Cheese: 96.8% Valid Signature Rate for WI Recall Petitions « electionsmith.

Voting Blogs: Multiple States Considering Legislation To Increase Voting Rights | ThinkProgress

If voting legislation in 2011 centered largely on hindering access to the ballot box, 2012 will hopefully be defined as the year that voting rights began fighting back. Last year, a rash of anti-voting legislation popped up in states around the country, from Florida to Texas to Wisconsin. New laws banning anyone without photo IDs from voting (commonly known as “voter ID”) grabbed the headlines, in part because of their potential to disenfranchise over 3 million citizens in the 2012 election, but lesser-known legislation emerged as well.

Full Article: Multiple States Considering Legislation To Increase Voting Rights | ThinkProgress.

Voting Blogs: Will the Cost of Elections Become a Reason Not to Have Them? | Doug Chapin/PEEA

On Friday afternoon, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) released cost estimates that showed the hotly-contested recall of the state’s governor could cost the state more than $9 million in 2012. GAB obtained the figures through a survey of the state’s counties and municipalities and estimated that the recall costs would break down as follows:

  • + County estimated costs: $2,348,423.98
  • + Municipal estimated costs: $5,821,898,.20
  • + GAB estimated costs: $841,349.00
  • + Total estimate: $9,011,762.18

These figures are remarkably detailed and I look forward to learning (and sharing) more about the process involved in generating the estimates.

Full Article: Will the Cost of Elections Become a Reason Not to Have Them? - Program for Excellence in Election Administration.

National: Voter ID battle will spread from South Carolina to several other key states | theGrio

The Justice Department’s decision last week to block a new South Carolina law requiring voters to present photo identification is only the first of what will be a year-long battle between advocates and opponents of stricter voting laws. And the results of those fights could determine the winner of the 2012 presidential election.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, said her state will appeal DOJ’s decision in court, casting it as “bullying” by the federal government. At the same time, civil right groups are promising to fight similar provisions in states such as Wisconsin and Texas, arguing these laws unfairly target minorities, who are less likely to hold photo identification.

Full Article: Voter ID battle will spread from South Carolina to several other key states.

Editorials: 2011, the year of the recall – Why has the recall vote suddenly become so popular? You may think it’s anger, but it’s really technology | Joshua Spivak/latimes.com

This year an enraged electorate has made its presence felt, through Occupying events and a roller-coaster Republican presidential primary process. But the most obvious sign of political activism has been the unprecedented use of recall elections. The numbers tell the tale: In 2011, at least 150 elected officials in 17 states faced recall votes.

Recalls stretched from the Arizona state Senate to the Miami-Dade mayor’s office to the school board in Grenora, N.D. Eleven state legislators faced recall — including nine in Wisconsin. Thirty mayors were subject to recall votes in 2011. At least three municipalities adopted the recall. Nineteen U.S. states allow recalls, with more — South Carolina among them — seriously considering adopting the process. It’s even grown internationally, with governments in India, Britain and Australia all considering adopting the recall in some form.

Full Article: Joshua Spivak: 2011, the year of the recall - latimes.com.

National: Holder to wade into debate over voting rights | The Washington Post

The Obama administration on Tuesday will wade into the increasingly divisive national debate over new voting laws in several states that could depress turnout among minorities and others who helped elect the president in 2008.

A dozen states this year tightened rules requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Although Democratic governors vetoed four of the measures, liberal and civil rights groups have been raising alarms about the remaining laws, calling them an “assault on democracy” and an attempt to depress minority voter turnout. Supporters of the tighter laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud.

With the presidential campaign heating up, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will deliver a speech Tuesday expressing concerns about the voter-identification laws, along with a Texas redistricting plan before the Supreme Court that fails to take into account the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population, he said in an interview Monday.

Full Article: Holder to wade into debate over voting rights - The Washington Post.

Voting Blogs: Voters want information online, but will they find it? | electionlineWeekly

“Am I registered to vote?” “Where is my polling place?” “What’s on my ballot?” These are common questions voters routinely ask before heading to the polls and casting their ballots. But easily finding answers to these questions depends, to a large extent, on whether their state election agencies are providing information and tools on their websites.

To determine how well states are helping voters prepare to vote, in 2010 the Pew Center on the States launched a nationwide assessment of the 50 states and the District of Columbia’s election websites. The assessment was conducted by the California Voter Foundation and the Center for Governmental Studies, two nonprofits with decades of online voter education experience, and the Nielsen Norman Group, evaluating more than 100 detailed criteria based on three categories: content, look-up tools, and usability.

The results are in Pew’s new report, “Being Online Is Still Not Enough.” The 2010 assessment built on and expanded an earlier, 2008 Pew analysis of state election website look-up tools and usability.

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.

Voting Blogs: Badger Ballot Blues: Early Issues with Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law | State of Elections

Could Wisconsin soon be the center of another political controversy?  A test run of the state’s new voter identification law on Oct. 11 led to long lines and frustrated voters, which could cause state Democrats to amplify their attacks on a law they already claim is costly and intended only to suppress voter turnout. State Republicans have expressed strong support for the law since its passage in May, and have expressed no desire to make any changes before it takes full effect before February’s primary elections.

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl called for the mock election after noticing irregularities during July’s State Senate recall elections. Poll workers in those elections were instructed to request voters’ identification even though it was not yet required.  Witzel-Behl indicated that the workers were inconsistently following this instruction.  Following Tuesday’s mock election, Witzel-Behl estimated that it took each voter two minutes to present identification and sign the poll book, a standard she found “very alarming.” She also noted that several people left the line due to the long wait.

Full Article: Badger Ballot Blues: Early Issues with Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law « State of Elections.

Editorials: Are voter ID laws protective or restrictive? | UPI.com

Voter identification — considered a safeguard against fraud by some and an effort to disenfranchise voters by others — was a hot topic in state legislatures this year. Twenty states that didn’t have requirements requiring voter ID at the polls at the beginning of 2011 considered legislation this year. Two states — Kansas and Wisconsin — so far have enacted new voter ID requirements, statistics posted on the National Conference for State Legislatures indicate.

Governors in Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Carolina vetoed voter ID bills in 2011, but backers in Minnesota vowed to pass a similar ID bill next year that would skip the gubernatorial step and take the matter to the voters instead, similar to what the Oklahoma Legislature did in 2009 and 2010. Mississippi voters will weigh in on a citizen initiative proposing voter ID in November. Of the 30 states with voter ID laws, 14 require a picture ID of the voter.

Full Article: Politics 2012: Are voter ID laws protective or restrictive? - UPI.com.

National: Democrats Fret About Stricter Voter ID Laws | Roll Call

Congressional Democrats are warning that stricter voter identification laws sweeping through state legislatures could suppress voters in the 2012 elections. At least 34 states have introduced legislation, with varying degrees of restrictiveness, that would require voters to display identification at the polls before they are given a ballot. Some of these laws require voters to produce photo identification; some do not.

The battleground state of Wisconsin has a new law requiring photo IDs, while proposals at various legislative stages in the perennial presidential swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania are also giving Democrats heartburn. The more restrictive voting ID measure in Ohio is pending Senate floor consideration. A bill to introduce ID rules for the first time in Pennsylvania has passed the state House and is currently in a state Senate committee. Democratic National Committee spokesman Alec Gerlach said Ohio is “one of the states where this has been a big concern.” 

Full Article: Democrats Fret About Stricter Voter ID Laws : Roll Call Politics.

Editorials: The Real Voter Fraud Scandal | US News and World Report

Well over a year before the 2012 presidential election, there’s a battle going on over next year’s ballots—how they’ll count and who will get to cast them. At stake is an attempt to distort the voters’ will by twisting the rule of law. Most recently, Pennsylvania has been the focus of this battle. Dominic Pileggi, the state Senate majority leader, wants to change the way the Keystone State distributes its electoral votes, divvying them up according to how each presidential candidate performed in each congressional district, with the remaining two electoral votes going to the candidate who won the popular vote.

So while Barack Obama’s 55 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania in 2008 netted him all 21 of its electoral votes, the Pileggi plan would have shaved that figure to 11 electors. (Nationwide, Obama won 242 congressional districts while John McCain got 193.) The change would be even sharper as Pennsylvania’s new congressional map is expected to have 12 of the state’s 18 seats drawn to favor the GOP. Obama could win a majority of the Keystone vote again but only score eight of the state’s 20 electors. Do we really want to bring gerrymandering into presidential elections?

Full Article: The Real Voter Fraud Scandal - US News and World Report.

Voting Blogs: Arizona and sham candidates — comparing different recall set ups | The Recall Elections Blog

Some interesting discussion by the Election Law Blogger himself, Professor Rick Hasen, focused on Olivia Cortes, the alleged sham candidate in the Russell Pearce. As I’ll explain below, because of the particularities of Arizona law, I don’t find the sham candidate problem that offensive.

For contrast, Hasen notes how California law works. California’s law eliminates sham candidates run to protect the targeted official. It provides for two concurrent votes, one on whether to actually recall the official, and the second (non-partisan) on the replacement. The removed official cannot run in the replacement race (which I believe was the source of debate during the adoption of the recall itself).

I think this is the best system, mainly because it limits costs and provides some contrasts between the official being recalled and the possible replacement. Though not a benefit, I believe the ability to draw a contrast with a successor actually benefits the elected official — as the official has somebody to attack rather than the potentially nebulous recall proponents. 

Full Article: The Recall Elections Blog: Arizona and sham candidates -- comparing different recall set ups.

Editorials: Stickers for Wisconsin Student IDs a welcome start | The UWM Post

When Voter ID became law last May, most student IDs were automatically excluded from acceptable forms of identification. This is no longer the case now that the Government Accountability Board has approved student IDs for voting, provided they have necessary stickers attached.

We endorse this decision as a whole. Yet even this seemingly straightforward directive is laden with conditionals. Rather than limiting ourselves to a blanket judgment, we will weigh in several particulars.

First, we believe that UW-Milwaukee should begin offering these stickers as soon as the law goes into effect. The GAB’s decision stopped short of mandating that colleges issue acceptable voter identification, leaving it to individual schools to pursue a sticker program if they so choose. However, it would be unconscionable for UWM to decline to provide makeshift voter IDs.

Full Article: Stickers a welcome start | The UWM Post.

Editorials: Wisconsin’s photo ID law has big image problem | JSOnline

I’m officially done arguing with people about whether the new photo ID law is a plan to suppress the vote in the minority community or not. Thanks to a whistle-blower in Madison, I’ve finally got my answer.

For a long time I’ve argued with readers that a photo identification law for Wisconsin wasn’t really necessary but could actually open the door for voter suppression among low-income minorities in a city like Milwaukee.

Even after Wisconsin Republicans passed the photo ID bill last May, I argued about the need to make sure it wasn’t overly restrictive or difficult to obtain. I have also pointed out my troubling racial concerns about a photo ID bill passed in a state where white Republicans currently run things. How many times have you heard the Democratic Party referred to as the main party for minorities and poor people?

Full Article: Wisconsin's photo ID law has big image problem - JSOnline.

Editorials: John Nichols: Voter ID rule is a poll tax | madison.com

When Wisconsin legislators passed the most restrictive voter ID law in the country earlier this year, they enacted what legal experts and voting rights activists have correctly identified as a poll tax. Proponents of the law argued otherwise. They pointed out that eligible voters who could not afford a state ID could obtain one without charge.

With the decision of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to direct DMV employees to refrain from actively informing the public about the ability to receive a free identification card for the purposes of voting, however, the potential that the voter ID law could serve as a poll tax becomes realistic — and legally significant. Notably, the head of the DOT is a former Republican legislator with close ties to Gov. Scott Walker, and the author of the memo on denying information to prospective voters is a political appointee.

The term “poll tax” has a sordid history. With roots in the anti-democratic practice of allowing only the landed gentry to vote, poll taxes became even more notorious when they were associated with the efforts of Southern segregationists to deny the franchise to African-Americans. A critical turning point came in 1962 with the ratification of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed poll taxes in federal elections.

Full Article: John Nichols: Voter ID rule is a poll tax.

National: Sen. Durbin raises alarm on state laws affecting voter turnout | The Hill’s Ballot Box

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is concerned voter turnout is at risk of being suppressed across the country — and thinks a spate of new state laws are to blame. Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, called a hearing Thursday to examine laws that limit early voting, require photo identification and regulate who can volunteer for voter registration.

The senator pointed to Texas and Florida as states that have moved to restrict voter registration drives in the name of curbing fraud, but said such fraud is almost nonexistent and is used as an excuse to disenfranchise voters.

“Protecting the right of every citizen to vote and ensuring elections are fair and transparent are … American values,” said Durbin, who will send a letter to governors in Florida, Wisconsin and Tennessee about voter-related concerns in those states.

Editorials: League of Women Voters’ Melanie G. Ramey: Lawsuit defends voting rights, upholds state constitution | madison.com

Ninety-one years ago, women won the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. Without being able to participate in the election of their state and federal officials, the women suffragists found support — and ultimately the votes they needed — in Congress and state houses across the land. Then they created the League of Women Voters to educate voters and affect public policy through citizen education and advocacy.

With such a history, it is no wonder that the league is now concerned about the many eligible citizens who will be disenfranchised by Wisconsin’s new voter ID law. We can’t imagine what we, the people of Wisconsin, have done to deserve the most restrictive voting law in the nation. That is why we are challenging Wisconsin’s new law, while also helping citizens to obtain a voting ID if they do not have one.

The new law places an unfair burden on people who do not need a driver’s license, in particular the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income citizens and students. It excludes anyone who does not have an acceptable ID for any reason.

Full Article: League of Women Voters' Melanie G. Ramey: Lawsuit defends voting rights, upholds state constitution.

Editorials: The GOP War on Voting | Rolling Stone

As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. “What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century,” says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.

Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” But since the 2010 election, thanks to a conservative advocacy group founded by Weyrich, the GOP’s effort to disrupt voting rights has been more widespread and effective than ever. In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

Full Article: The GOP War on Voting | Rolling Stone Politics.

Voting Blogs: Political Hurdles for League of Women Voters’ State Constitutional Challenge to Wisconsin Photo ID Law | The Brad Blog

The League of Women Voters in Wisconsin announced it will file a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court charging that the Badger State’s newly-enacted polling place photo ID restriction law violates the state’s Constitution. From a strictly legal perspective, the decision by the League’s attorney Lester Pines to challenge the new photo ID law pursuant to the state’s Constitution is significant.

Under Equal Protection analysis, any impartial jurist would readily understand that the statute does not meet the heightened scrutiny that accompanies the fact that, under the WI Constitution, voting is deemed a “fundamental right.”

Full Article: The BRAD BLOG : Political Hurdles for League of Women Voters' State Constitutional Challenge to WI Photo ID Law.