Sunday, July 15, 2012

WisGOPs go to war on voting, valuing power over democracy

To the surprise of no one with a shred of common decency, the Scott Walker-appointed GOP District Attorney in Racine County admitted that there was no proof of voter fraud in the June 5 recall election that flipped control of the State Senate to the Democrats.
The Racine County Sheriff's Department investigated four separate complaints of voting fraud at city polling places on June 5, but information received in the complaints did not support a criminal prosecution, [Racine County DA W. Richard] Chiapete said in a statement.

"Some of the information that was provided was anecdotal, as opposed to firsthand eyewitness accounts," the statement says. "Much of what was reported as fraud was more appropriately categorized as rule violations that are under the jurisdiction of the Government Accountability Board."

The state board is responsible for overseeing elections statewide and investigating such violations.

"Complaints about poll workers, same-day registration procedures and electioneering can be (violations), but in this case did not rise to the level of a crime in Wisconsin," Chiapete said.
In other words, a few partisan operatives whining and telling "he said, she said" stories to try to gain a political advantage does not = evidence. Naturally, this news was dumped on a Friday afternoon, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel buried the story in its online and printed editions (and you can bet JournalComm's radio hosts on AM 620 won't say shit about this on Monday after whining about "voter fraud" for weeks).

And as for the GAB, they condemned the Racine County GOP and WisGOP legislators for their frivolous accusations, and for carelessly trying to shed doubt on the integrity of state elections.
Speaking frankly on behalf of our agency and local election officials, absent direct evidence, I believe continued unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud tend to unnecessarily undermine the confidence that voters have in election officials and the results of the election. I know we agree that elections should be open and transparent and subject to scrutiny and analysis. I hope that, as an elected official, you would also agree that there is little benefit in promoting unsupported allegations questioning the credibility of the election process and the work of local clerks and election inspectors.

As the non-partisan agency charged with administering Wisconsin’s election laws, we view part of our responsibility as ensuring that each candidate elected to office enters upon those responsibilities with an equal degree of legitimacy based upon the votes of qualified electors. It is a responsibility we take seriously for you and your constituents, just as we do for other candidates and voters, regardless of partisan affiliation.
The GAB letter also indicates that new restrictions that the GOP-backed legislature have put huge burdens on election clerks, and that some are retiring from the job in frustration, which will lead to more potential hiccups at the polls in August and especially November. It's either amazing short-sightedness from Walker and WisGOP is refusing to understand the effects of their new voting restrictions, or it's the intellgence of the design of the legislation, because new poll workers making rookie mistakes allows them to whine more about "voter irregularities" and stir up the suburban racists that make up a sizable amount of their supporters (I'm going with the latter).

On the subject, here's a good article from the Root River Siren on how Racine GOP operative Lou D'Abbraccio broke election laws when it came to challenging the eligibility of voters in Racine during the June 5 election.
Poll observers are supposed to be just that - observers. They are not to talk to voters or poll workers and they agree to follow those rules when they sign in on the observer log at every polling place. If they observe something improper or incorrect - they are to report it to the Chief Elections Inspector at the polling place. If the complaint is not resolved the observer can file a report with the GAB.

It's actually quite simple.

The Chief Elections Inspector (CEI) is totally in charge. They have the power to decide what challenges are worthy and what challenges are crap. The CEI at the Bryant Community Center -where our story takes place - is Lillie Cameron. Ms. Cameron has been working the polls for years which means she has seen D'Abbraccio's act before.

What do we mean by act?

Well, imagine a polling place in the inner-city. Most of the voters are African-American and Latino. Most of the poll workers are minorities as well. Now imagine a big fat white guy who strolls in to that polling place so certain these minority people are breaking the law all he has to do is stand around for awhile and the crime will reveal itself.

Except Boss Hogg doesn't follow the rules he's looking to uphold. No, those rules are for them not him.

Boss Hogg (who in today's episode is played by Lou D'Abbraccio) talks to poll workers, he talks to voters and when he sees something he doesn't like he YELLS at poll workers, he YELLS at voters and then he YELLS at Ms. Cameron the Chief Inspector.
And the Siren goes on to explain that Louie threw a fit at the polls in full view of all workers and voters, and Ms. Cameron told him he was improperly challenging voters and to back off.

As an aside, I've been an election observer in the last couple of recall elections. The difference between me and Louie is that I felt my job was to make sure things are running smoothly (making sure ballots aren't running out or long lines occuring that might drive away voters, and giving the CEI the heads-up if I'm noticing anything), and to give hints on types of documentation that people may need in order to be able to vote. I also would look at the ballots as the polls closed and make sure the numbers added up (in both places I observed, this happened with no problems or disparities), and make sure absentee ballots were being counted and included. But as the Siren brings up, I DO NOT have any right to distract voters and technically can't do much with poll worker staff other than the CEI. And I blended into the background as best I could, and if things went well, I didn't do anything except make a couple of calls back to my group's headquarters giving updates on turnout at the polling place.

But then again, I was observing the election as someone who cared about this state and wanted to make sure democracy was being upheld in these big moments, with all people having the best chance to exercise their inherent right to vote. That's not the approach of Lou D'Abbraccio and the GOP operatives that care more about gaining power and gaming the system over making democracy better with improved amounts of participation from all segments of society.

In fact, Louie's Election Day tantrum is part of a two-step plan to create controversy. The next step in the plan is to turn these trumped up and false complaints are relayed on angry-man radio, and turned into "fact" in the minds of the right-wing propaganda machine. And then it creates an "issue" that lazy media now feels compelled to report on, which takes the cycle to another level, and gives these claims a perceived legitimacy that does not exist.

See, while Louie would certainly like to see dark-skinned voters in Racine have their votes thrown out, his real goal is to make a scene and throw doubt on the entire election and voter registration process, which creates the impression of a "problem" in Wisconsin that doesn't exist. And this opens the door for more restrictive voting laws to be proposed to solve this "problem", which drives down voter turnout and increases the chances of GOP candidates of winning. It also has a nice side effect of telling working-class racists in the 262 that they have a home in the Wisconsin GOP.

We need to make these race-baiters pay for the disgraceful act that they have pulled in Racine in the last 5 weeks, and remind people constantly that the Wisconsin GOP cares less about a functioning democracy, and cares more about winning and grabbing power and control.

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