Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Voter Purges Coming in Wisconsin and Georgia

New Orleans       A Georgia judge allowed a 300,000 voter purge to happen hours ago in that state.  A lawsuit filed by Fair Vote Action seeking to prevent the purge will happen later this week on the constitutional argument that voters should be maintained on the rolls.  The judge allowed the purge to go forward after he was assured by the Georgia Secretary of State that any voters purged in error would be quickly and easily reinstated.

In Wisconsin at the end of last week a judge in an amazing hearing agreed with a conservative law firm that a purge of some 234,000 should be allowed despite the unanimous vote of the bipartisan Wisconsin Election Commission that wanted to hold off any purges until 2021, after the 2020 election season has passed.  They cited unreliable data and errors in the past from the ERIC or Electronic Registration Information Center that some twenty-nine states use to verify and check their rolls.  In previous purges in Wisconsin a disproportionate number of voters had been purged incorrectly in Madison and Milwaukee, not surprisingly Democratic strongholds.  Incredibly, the letter sent out to voters to allow them to confirm their addresses and voter status actually told them they confirm their registration if they “vote in the next election,” even though they were at the same time notifying them that they would take away their right to do so.  The judge was oblivious to these arguments and talking to people in Wisconsin, the hearing was so prejudicial that they knew within the first few minutes how he would rule.

I worry that these purges are going to become routine now.  Few will wait until October or November 2020 to pull the trigger.  The Voter Purge Project, created by the American Voter Project, ACORN International, and the Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center might be able to help in Georgia.  We have been monitoring their list in recent months so our database may be able to catch some errors and restore voters in the same way that we were able to stop 40,000 from being purged in Ohio.  Wisconsin is a harder problem, because the barriers to obtaining the lists are so high:  $12,500 for each request!

The problem of voter protection in the face of such concerted efforts at voter suppression is a difficult one.  WILL, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, that brought the purge suit is a good example of what the Voter Purge Project and others are up against.  It was founded in 2011 with a $500,000 grant from the hard-right Bradley Foundation which has subsequently thrown in another almost $5 million to beef up its program and staff.  Meanwhile, we’re fighting to protect voters with nickels, dimes, and volunteers against teams of attorneys and multi-million-dollar foundations and donors.

Regardless, right is right, and wrong is wrong.  We’re in it to win it, and the odds aren’t terrible if we can stick to the truth hidden behind all of these numbers.

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Lost in the Stacks

Madison    It was the right thing to do.  Make a plan to try and retain records from the ACORN family of organizations in some professionally maintained archives before in the shuffling from office to office, here to there, we lost everything.  We had tried to interest the University of Arkansas at both Fayetteville and Little Rock.  No luck.  We had tried to see if the University of New Orleans might be a location.  No capacity.  We talked to the Little Rock Public Library, but in the days before they became the giant, well-funded Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), they didn’t see a way forward.  We ended up in the Social Change Collection, as it was called then, at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin.  We felt like that was good company with the records of SNCC, NWRO, the Highlander Center, and many others.

Having tried to dive in some years ago for a week and finding the task daunting, I had been humbled by the size of the collection now.  Another brief visit in December 2018, reminded me that unless I had months to spare, the task was impossible.  With the 50th anniversary of ACORN coming up in 2020, I knew we had to scale this mountain, so I stumbled on trying to recruit an “Archives Assault Team,” and managed to get Mary Rowles, recently retired from the British Columbia Government Employees Union, Fred Brooks, still a professor at Georgia State, and Dan Russell, a retired professor from Springfield College in Massachusetts to join the group.  Beth Butler from A Community Voice was gang pressed into service, and I rounded off the list, toggling between my work in Milwaukee with Amani United.

We’re deep in the boxes now, but thirty boxes in after two days, we’ve had to narrow our mission daily to try to skim through as much as possible, skipping over most of the labor files, breezing through the media work, and concentrating on ACORN to see if we can pull out valuable memoranda for a “readings” book that would give a open window into ACORN’s process and production.  Sometimes we get lost in the weeds.  Flyers catch the eye.  A piece of internal conflict that had been forgotten is once again revealed.  A plaintive, lengthy letter on a diminishing commitment resurfaces.  A back-and-forth on a decision emerges that had reverberations over decades.  Is any of that what we hoped to find?  I’m not sure, but it educates anyway.

There’s some humor.  An ill-tempered exchange that makes one wince.  One of the team asking if we should care if a document was marked “confidential,” and then realizing that if it’s in the archives, it’s now part of the historical record.  Talking to the presiding archivist, he counsels that I should not tell the team that there are more than one-million pages in the ACORN archives.  He says that when I use 250 cartons as the collection estimate, I’m low-balling.

What can we do but continue to burrow in and hope to bring the gold back to the surface and separate it from so much rock.

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Please enjoy Kelsey Waldon’s Anyhow

Thanks to KABF.

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