Wisconsin state senator and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) is perpetuating discredited allegations of "voter fraud" to argue that the state's unconstitutional voter ID law would help Mitt Romney win the state in the November elections.
Think Progress' Scott Keyes interviewed Grothman, a member of the ALEC Education and International Relations Task Forces, on July 22 and asked him about the state's ALEC-inspired voter ID law, which has been struck down as unconstitutional by two separate Wisconsin courts.
Think Progress: If [the voter ID law] were upheld and in place in time for the November election, do you think -- polls have shown a pretty razor-thin margin -- do you think it might ultimately help Romney's campaign here in the state?
GROTHMAN: Yes. Right. I think we believe that insofar as there are inappropriate things going on, people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat.
Think Progress: So if these protections are in place of voter ID, that might ultimately help him in a close race.
GROTHMAN: Right. I think if people cheat, we believe the people who cheat are more likely to vote against us.
On the contrary, extensive investigations have revealed that neither Democrats nor Republicans are committing voter fraud. Earlier this month, Dane County Judge David Flanagan struck down Wisconsin's voter ID law as violating the state constitution's express protections for voting rights, noting that:
"Since 2004, voter fraud investigations have been undertaken by the Milwaukee Police Department, by the Mayor of Milwaukee and by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, working with various county prosecutors working through the [Republican] Attorney General's Election Fraud Task Force. None of these efforts have produced a prosecution of a voter fraud violation that would have been prevented by the voter ID requirements" in Wisconsin's voter ID law.
On balance, Judge Flanagan found that the purported benefits of voter ID -- stopping nonexistent voter fraud -- did not outweigh the costs of disenfranchising more than 300,000 Wisconsin voters who do not have the forms of ID required under the law.
Many of those who lack ID are students, people of color, and the elderly -- populations that tend to vote for Democrats.
Voter ID's Partisan Motivation Made Clear
Despite the disproportionate impact that voter ID laws in Wisconsin and elsewhere will have on Democratic constituencies, supporters have long argued that the laws should not be considered a partisan issue. Grothman's unsupported comments ("people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat") and other recent developments have revealed the partisan motivations behind the push for "voter ID."
Prior to the June 5 Wisconsin recall elections, GOP leaders and right-wing media declared that not having a voter ID law would lead to rampant fraud. But after Walker and three Republican senators survived their recall elections, there were no further allegations of statewide voter fraud or election irregularities in districts where Republican legislators kept their seats. Right-wing media and legislators only claimed voter fraud had happened in Racine, the one district where a Republican had lost (claims that were called "unsubstantiated" and "unsupported" by Wisconsin's elections board).
In June, Republican Rep. Robin Vos, the ALEC state co-chair in Wisconsin, sought to intervene in an appeal of the decision striking down the voter ID law, but refused to disclose who was funding his legal fees. Vos had spearheaded the effort to pass the bill in 2011, which reflects key elements of the ALEC "model" Voter ID Act. Only after the state ethics board advised that Vos would likely violate Wisconsin's ethics law by accepting secretly-funded legal services was it revealed that the Republican National Committee had been secretly bankrolling his effort to intervene in the case.
Also in June, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) declared that voter ID "is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania." That state's voter ID law is currently being challenged in court, and the federal Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is investigating whether the law discriminates against people of color.
Grothman Doesn't Want to Help Students Register to Vote?
Grothman's statements to Think Progress are the second time this month he has made controversial comments on voting rights. Last week, he attacked an ordinance passed by the Madison City Council requiring that landlords provide voter registration forms to new tenants, calling it "sheer arrogance."
Grothman, whose district is not even near Madison, said that asking landlords to hand tenants a piece of paper is an undue burden on freedom and free enterprise. "Landlords are already over regulated in this state," he said. "It is my sincere wish that the city's landlords find a way to strike a blow for freedom and avoid this new imposition."
Madison is home to the state's largest university and around half the housing units in the city are rentals, and a large percentage of those units turn over every year -- and in many cases, students or other renters don't know they must re-register when moving across town into a new district. Grothman sees efforts to help them register as intimidation.
"One could argue that by the nature of their relationship a landlord who gives a tenant a registration form is compelling someone to vote. One could see an 18 year old college student feel they were being intimidated into voting with such a requirement," he said.
Grothman knows that increased voter registration in liberal Madison, particularly by young people, would likely help Democrats in statewide elections.