Wisconsin: Republican party organizers attempt to prevent citizens from voting - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Wisconsin: Republican party organizers attempt to prevent citizens from voting

Republican Party organizers under the umbrella of the Romney-Ryan campaign in Wisconsin have been caught holding training sessions for poll watchers that instruct them to enforce laws that don’t exist to prevent people from voting.

Wisconsin is once again a swing state in the presidential election and the fact that the candidates have been here several times over the past few weeks says that they think so too.

President Barack Obama could have spent the weekend here, appearing in Milwaukee on Saturday with Katy Perry and Madison on Monday with Bruce Springsteen.

Republicans, however, are once again ramping up their efforts to slow and even deny minorities and the usually disenfranchised from voting—part of those 47 percent Romney admittedly doesn’t care about.

Let the people vote.

They tried after GOP Gov. Scott Walker was elected last year in passing the nation’s most restrictive voter photo ID bill to date. Courts threw out that law and the Badger State is once again allowed to let anybody come to the polls to exercise their franchise with forms of ID that don’t require photos.

Knowing that these folks don’t exercise that franchise too much, the GOP figures creating inconvenience will stop them. It tends to be the Republican strategy to prevent people from voting. Democratic organizers tend to rely on registering voters and then getting them to the polls. For years here cries of voter fraud have been emanating from conservative talk radio and other GOP pronouncers that have yet to be realized in numbers that really matter. Just two people were convicted in Wisconsin after illegally voting in the 2008 presidential election.

Recent GOP poll observer “training” sessions feature a 20-page manual that put several falsehoods to the trained, as well as making sure to advise the Republican poll workers that they should not mention their party affiliation when signing up to witness.

Some of the falsehoods they were training the watchers to relay to potential voters:

  • That convicted felons cannot vote. In Wisconsin, once felons have completed their sentence, they are allowed to vote.
  • That the chief election officer at the polling site has to verify the address of a voter. That is not the case.
  • That poll observers cannot help voters with instructions. State law says that voters can ask anyone for help as long as there is no electioneering on the part of the advisor.

The Website, Think Progress, found that at least 17 training sessions were held in Wisconsin since the end of September. The Romney campaign at the end of October stopped publicly posting training locations and sites.

The sessions also urged GOP poll watchers to register as “concerned citizens” and not as GOP operatives.

The state Obama campaign has brought the matter to the attention of the state elections board and the state attorney general’s office for future action.

“We’re confident that the combined resources of our voter protection operation and [state elections board] work with law enforcement will lead to minimal problems,” Wisconsin Obama for America’s communications director Joe Zepecki said Monday.  “Our guiding principle when it comes to Election Day and voter protection is simple: every eligible citizen who would like to cast a ballot should have that opportunity to make their voice heard.”

A compilation put out by Huffington Post of 70 polls as of Monday has Obama leading in Wisconsin 50.2 percent -45.9 percent. Only one poll since the first of the year had Romney ahead in Wisconsin, one taken right after the GOP convention in August. That showed him up by a point, 48 percent -47 percent.

About the author

Doug Hissom

Doug Hissom writes a weekly environmental column for Baltimore Post-Examiner. He has covered local and state politics in Wisconsin for more than 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper. An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe. Contact the author.