October 13, 2004

GOP Officials Attempt to Sabotage Election in Milwaukee

This is disgraceful. If you're in Milwaukee County please respectfully e-mail County Executive Scott Walker about this; here's a web form.

[Republican] Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, citing vote-fraud concerns, is publicly balking at a City of Milwaukee request for almost 260,000 additional ballots in anticipation of high turnout for the Nov. 2 presidential election....

[Democratic City Mayor Tom] Barrett said that the 679,000 ballots the county had agreed to print were less than the amount prepared for the presidential election in 2000 as well as for the the gubernatorial race in 2002. He and the city's top election official said that the city requested 938,000 ballots from the county, which, by law, pays for and prints ballots.

In a letter sent to City Elections chief Lisa Artison, Walker said that he had "serious questions" about the need for that many ballots when the city reported having 382,000 registered voters in September.

Walker said that having excess ballots around was troublesome in light of possible illegalities in current voter-registration drives - already under investigation by the district attorney - and potential "chaos" at understaffed polling places where voters could grab ballots.

I seriously doubt that polling places will be so poorly run that voters will be able to "grab ballots" and stuff them in without minority party poll-watchers noticing. But if they are--won't that happen regardless of the number of ballots available? I don't think the contention is that the city is requesting so many ballots that they'll be spilling out of bags in the middle of the floor.

As for registration fraud--how is reducing the number of ballots supposed to address that? If a polling place runs out of ballots, it will disenfranchise everyone who hasn't voted yet, no matter whether their registration is legitimate. And fraudulently registered people who've already voted will still have their votes count. In short--the solution seems to have nothing to do with the alleged problem.

As for the number of registered voters in Milwaukee:

The chairman of the county commission, Doug Haag, who is also the Republican Party's chairman in Milwaukee County, went further.

Haag said Republican Party officials questioned why voter-registration groups seem to target only Milwaukee's central city and students on the city's east side. And he noted that Wisconsin has same-day registration.

Meanwhile, the Democrats' explanation seems perfectly sound:

City officials said that they were trying to err on the side of no ballot shortages because some wards have run out in the past.

They said that ballot-marking errors, intense voter interest, the need to have extra ballots at many high-turnout wards and other factors played into their request.

It's not rocket science. Having too many ballots printed is harmless. Having too few ballots printed disenfranchises people. You want to err on the side of safety.

And given the incoherence of the Republicans' stated motives, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that disenfranchising people is exactly what they want to do.

Again, if you're a Milwaukee County resident, please respectfullye-mail County Executive Scott Walker about this; here's a web form.

Posted by Matt Weiner at October 13, 2004 09:50 AM