The progressive advocacy group One Wisconsin Now has uncovered a plan by the Wisconsin Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, and local Tea Party groups to engage in what One Wisconsin Now is calling a “voter suppression” scheme. The GOP and Tea Party groups have denied the existence of such a plan, instead claiming that their efforts are aimed at preventing alleged "voter fraud."
The voter-suppression charge arises from right-wing groups training “election observers” to challenge people they somehow suspect of voting fraudulently in Wisconsin’s elections. Americans for Prosperity is paying for a series of mailings targeted at communities of color, to assemble a list of “ineligible” voters that Tea Party election observers will challenge at the polls. Such challenges are not only intimidating and intrusive, but contribute to long lines at polling stations, further discouraging voters.
The practice is called “vote caging,” where pieces of mail are sent to registered voters, and a list of “ineligible voters” are compiled from those whose mail is returned as undeliverable. People whose names don't match their listed address are accused at the polls of being fraudulent voters. The Wisconsin GOP made a similar effort in the 2004 elections, announcing plans to challenge 37,180 voters deemed “ineligible" on a caging list developed by the Party, and targeting Milwaukee -- the city with the largest proportion of racial and ethnic minority citizens in the state. The non-partisan City Attorney and Election Commission stopped the GOP’s plan, and determined that the voters the GOP deemed “ineligible” had a mismatch between the name and address due to clerical errors, such as an incorrect apartment number, the lack of an apartment number, or that the person had simply moved.
Voter Fraud Widely Exaggerated
A spokesperson for Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, the state body charged with overseeing elections, tells The Nation that the groups concerned about voter fraud have a “complete and total delusion that minorities are voting more than once. There’s absolutely not one shred of evidence, no conviction, no charges, no nothing of that nature in the state of Wisconsin. I am aware of absolutely no activity like that.”
The Nation article also notes that, in an October 27 election observer training in Racine, Republican Party officials “laid out a parade of voter fraud horribles to the assembled men, from fraudulent voter registrations to vans organized by 'leftists' ferrying people 'incentivized' with money or coupons to cast multiple votes at different polling locations.”
Republicans and right-wing groups have repeatedly alleged voter fraud in recent elections, particularly in communities of color. Their claims that other groups participated in systematic fraud in presidential elections have been challenged. Similarly, right-wing assertions that Minnesota’s last Senate race was decided based on fraudulent votes was found to be grossly exaggerated, as were allegations of fraudulent voting in Wisconsin’s 2004 elections. Nonetheless, the myths persist, and Wisconsin is not alone in voter intimidation schemes in this election.
One Wisconsin Now has filed a request for investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, and Wisconsin Attorney General. Wisconsin residents can send a message to the Government Accountability Board and the State Attorney General supporting the investigation here.