Category Archives: voting rights

Wisconsin Voters Deliver a Butt-Whipping to Block Purges

New Orleans        The days when Wisconsin was famous for dairy are long gone.  In recent years it has been the home of partisan and ideological divide, voter suppression, anti-unionism, and just about every other rightwing fad of the moment.  The state is also perhaps the key battleground contest in the coming presidential election.  It was decisive in Trump’s election in 2016, and continues to be seen as tossup that could determine the outcome in November 2020.

Funny thing though, the voters continue to shock the politicians and pushback the conservatives with real force.  Scott Walker, for those of you with short memories, was the fair-haired hope of the right for a while.  Elected as governor, he upended public employee unionization in the state where it began, and governed on a polarizing axis for two terms before flaming out spectacularly in the Republican primaries for president to Trump and others.

The war zone in the state has continued as a grudge match.  The voters roared back and elected a Democrat as governor, but the legislature is strongly Republican along with the enabling state supreme court, all of which set the stage for the current election drama around the primary.

No small issue was the conservative cause celebre:  a voter purge.  The rightwing has been desperate to purge 200,000 voters.  The problem is that the Wisconsin election commission, a bipartisan body, voted unanimously to delay the purge until 2021 because they believed the list was so flawed.  A conservative law firm funded by the notorious Bradley Foundation sued to force the purge based on a legislative act mandating it, in their view.  The lower court agreed and even tried to impose a daily fine on the election commission for not doing the purge.  They appealed to the state supreme court making the election of one of the justices a make or break to determine whether Republicans or Democrats have the 4-3 majority for decisions.

This down-ballot race suddenly became more important than the Democratic presidential primary, now a forgone conclusion for Joe Biden, but thought to be a harbinger of bad news for the Republicans if turnout increased because the supreme court election was on the ballot at the same time.  The pandemic pushed itself into the equation as well.  Tony Evers, the Democratic governor argued for mail ballots or a delay of the primary.  The legislature, backed by the court, ordered the vote to go ahead with only a slight modification in giving more time to absentee voting and counting.  President Trump amazingly made an endorsement in the supreme court race, underscoring how important these voter suppression purges are to him and the party.  Adding insult to injury, in heavily Democratic Milwaukee, the number of voting places in the entire count were reduced from over 100 to only 5 for in-person voting, forcing long lines and challenging social distancing, risking the health of prospective voters.

The votes have now been counted and the results announced.  The voters administered a butt kicking to all of these dirty tricks and attempts at suppression.  They didn’t just vote a liberal Democrat into the seat, she’s the swing vote on the purge decision, because one justice had recused, but the conservatives still are 4-3 overall . . . they did so by an unbelievable margin of 120,000 votes against the Republican incumbent.  The number of absentee ballots cast was more than the usual total vote for a court race.  The primary vote for Biden was not the reason for the massive turnout, because that race was all over but for the last shout.  A coalition of the young and working-class voters along with others punched Trump in the nose for not minding his own business and trying to thwart the real electoral process in their state.

Here’s a clear case of what happens when autocratic overreach is forced to reckon with people and their ability to express their will.  If anybody out there is paying attention in class, the voters of Wisconsin just taught a master class.


Government Shouldn’t Play Gotcha on Voting and Benefits

New Orleans       Talking to a reporter from Politico about voter purges and why there needed to be supplemental efforts other than failing to answer a letter in the US Mail to determine whether a voter had moved or was still at a certain address, I offered the argument that most of what comes in the mail is junk or bills, and too many just don’t bother.  I thought it was true, because it has happened to me more times than I would like to admit.  I have the extra excuse of traveling half the time, so it’s often “search and destroy” on the mail when I return.  If it looks like junk, recycling.  If not, I’ll open it, when I get around to it.  I’ve almost thrown away checks doing that, and have absolutely thrown away bills and other inquires. Still that might just be me.  It also sounded lame.

Wrong!  The Upshot folks at the New York Times surveyed 4400 adults of various ways and means, it’s not just a case of misery loving company, but one where there is a huge pile of folks who admit that we sometimes mess up even on these relatively simple tasks and interactions with business and government.  The Times was most interested in the draconian way that some states, Arkansas being a prime example under the Affordable Care Act qualifications, try to force continued eligibility determinations based on replies to a simple letter from the government.

They asked the survey participants if they ever flubbed up, and then they calculated the percentages based on income.  Left mail unopened, 25% under $20,000 and 26% over $100,000; forgotten a bill like a scofflaw, 30% on the low end and 26% on the high end; missed an appointment 39% for lower income and 26% for higher, and let me add, both groups are lying – way more of them have missed appointments, misread their calendars, or showed up for a meeting before it was over or after it ended, sometimes by days.  Truth time!  The rich, like the poor, working stiffs, also fail to bring the right documents to the Motor Vehicle office between 23 and 19%, let their car registration expire between 14% for the poorer and 15% of the richer, or let their health insurance expire, 7% of the rich and 16% of the poorer.  I spent a fraught thirty minutes this morning before dawn going through my checkbooks to see if I had let my home insurance lapse!  God knows where the bill might be.

So, we humans who have not yet achieved robotic status or have minions or minders to cover up for our basic frailties, mess up.  Businesses know that.  They don’t just send one notice, they send twenty on subscriptions, car insurance, and a million other things.  Why do governments not understand that?  Or, let’s tell the truth, they do understand that, making their refusal to do more or better, deliberate.  Too many of them don’t want to admit that they are trying to deliberately deprive people of benefits, including their poorer fellow Americans who are desperate for healthcare, food stamps, and welfare.  They also don’t want to admit that they want to keep qualified citizens off the voter rolls, saying it is good politics.

They are wrong.  They need to do better.  Sins of omission are as serious as sins of commission, especially when there is clearly malice aforethought.