Voter ID Solves Nothing
In the recall elections last night, Wisconsin Democrats came one seat short of their goal of taking the state senate from Republicans. As the night dragged on, it looked like a real possibility, but in the last hour or so, deja vu set in — everyone was waiting for result from Waukesha County and that county’s clerk, Kathy Nikolaus. At that point, the Democrat Sandy Pasch was in the lead — by better than ten points — and then a conservative county’s results came in and turned it all around. It looked bad, given Nikolaus’s recent history. The leader of the state Democratic Party issued an angry statement accusing the clerk of vote tampering, but later walked that back.
I’ve encapsulated that moment in history for a reason. Republicans argue that their new voter ID law, which wasn’t in full effect in last night’s elections, is necessary in “protecting the integrity of elections in Wisconsin.” If people aren’t sure that some voters are actually legally entitled to vote, then the people won’t have faith in their elected officials, because they won’t be sure those officials were lawfully elected. Never mind that not once in Wisconsin history has a wave of illegal voters thrown an election. Not even close.
Still, Wisconsinites have good reason to doubt the legitimacy of their elections. As Kathy Nikolaus demonstrates so well, the sheer incompetence of one county clerk can throw an election into question. Today, there are no shortage of people who believe that incumbent Alberta Darling didn’t win that race and, rightly or wrongly, question the legitimacy of that election. And in all that questioning, you won’t hear the words “voter fraud” once. The worry is vote tampering. And more.
In the runup to these elections, several groups sent out mailers urging voters to get their absentee ballots in by August 11 — a date past the deadline. And, just to make sure those absentee ballots wouldn’t be counted, they listed an incorrect address. The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, Inc., and Wisconsin Family Action all sent out similar mailers and all had identical misinformation; an apparently coordinated effort at voter suppression through lies in several Wisconsin districts. Once again, the integrity of these elections are in question and — once again — absolutely no one believes the problem was with the voters.
Even Gov. Walker himself has a shady electoral record, with several of his donors accused of violating campaign finance laws. Most cases involve what amounts to money-laundering to exceed the limit on individual contributions. Many people now lack faith even in the governor’s legitimacy — and none of those people doubt him because of illegal voting.
Needless to say, the voter ID bill does nothing to restore anyone’s faith in Wisconsin elections. The problem is a system that allows abuse and lacks transparency. Showing an ID at the polls does absolutely nothing to address that and it’s not meant to — it’s meant to provide a beard for voter suppression and to create the appearance of election reform, while doing almost less than nothing to address the real problems. And why doesn’t it address those real problems? Why, because those problems advantage Republicans.
Last night, Republicans lost two seats in recall elections. So far, Democrats have lost none. Republicans are taking that as a win, because they didn’t lose control of the state senate. But this is like celebrating the fact that only two-thirds of your house burned down. It was not a good night for them. Spinning this as victory is setting the bar extremely low.
“Dems would be silly not proceed with Walker recall based on tonight,” commented elections whiz Nate Silver. “The results project to a toss-up if you extrapolate out statewide.” This is by no means finished.
But if Walker wins his own recall fight, will Wisconsinites have faith in the results of that election? I doubt it. We’ll see the same illegal dirty tricks and the same Peter Principle incompetence from election officials and the same campaign finance abuses.
If Wisconsinites have no faith in elections, you can’t blame the voters. You have to blame Republicans. And until violations of campaign finance laws and illegal voter suppression tactics come with actual prison sentences — not fines that are simply written off as overhead by corporations with deep pockets — that lack of faith will always be there.
The problem isn’t voters, the problem is Republicans.
Wisconsin Recall Update
We have a few hard numbers now on the Wisconsin recall races and, while the news is good, it’s not anything we didn’t already know. Jmartin4s at DailyKos got hold of some polling from Insider Michigan Politics which finds that Democrats are clear leaders in three races that they’re widely expected to win. What’s telling here is just how large those leads are:
State Senate District 12-Incumbent Jim Holperin (D)
46.3% Simac (R) 53.7% Holperin (D)
State Senate District 18-Incumbent Randy Hopper (R)
45.3% Hopper (R) 54.7% King (D)
State Senate District 32-Incumbent Dan Kapanke (R)
43.0% Kapanke (R) 57.0% Shilling (D)
Two strong wins and one landslide. One Republican incumbent who was expected to win finds herself in a much tighter race than anyone had expected. Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling recently told constituents she couldn’t guarantee she’d be reelected. Asked at a Q & A if she was sure she’d win, Darling answered, “I’m not sure. It’s going to be about turnout.”
According to Andrew Kroll at Mother Jones, she’s gone from a candidate who was “a lock to win her recall mere months ago” to a very slim lead and, in one poll at least, a statistical tie.
…According to polling data, Darling has some cause to worry: One poll released in mid-July by the Democratic Party showed Pasch ahead of Darling by 1 percentage point, while a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the liberal Daily Kos put Darling up by 5 points. Even then, it’s a sign of the shifting political headwinds in Wisconsin that the Republican state senator considered by Democrats to be the least likely to lose her recall election is now conceding that she may be unseated.
And she’s right. The “it’s all about turnout” cliche always struck me as a little obvious — if no one shows up to vote for you then, yeah, you’re not going to win. That’s how this election stuff works. But it’s shorthand for “we need ‘get out the vote’ efforts.” And it’s there that the right is getting a little antsy. The rightwing Human Events spells out the worry behind that antsiness.
Privately, more than a few Republican consultants are growing nervous and sensing that organized labor’s years-longer skills at turning out voters in special elections will win the day for them. The nature of the districts targeted by Democrats is also working to their advantage because, as [GOP consultant] Scott Becher told Human Events, “Democrats cherry-picked the districts they were going after.” In the Oshkosh district, for example, Republican Sen. Randy Hopper was last elected by a slim 189 votes over Democrat Jessica King and now faces a rematch with Oshkosh Deputy Mayor Kane. There are two prisons and a university in the district. In the 2nd District (Green Bay), Republican Sen. Rob Cowles faces a well-known opponent in former Brown County Executive Nancy Nussbaum, who is taking a page from national Democrats and denouncing Republican policy, in which (she charges), “I see the wealthiest people are being benefited. It just is not fair.”
The part about “cherry-picking” is BS, of course. Recall petitions were circulated in every district where a senator was eligible — in the farthest right (and left, for that matter) districts, those petitions failed to get the required number of signatures. Given the nature of the process, it only stands to reason that the more competitive the district, the more likely the success of the petition. You’ll notice that my own senator, Democrat Fred Risser, isn’t being recalled. It’s not for lack of trying, but for lack of signatures. And even if they’d found enough signatures to get the ball rolling, Risser is beloved here — the challenger would be slaughtered. The GOP didn’t “cherry-pick” other dems and leave Risser alone. There was just no chance of anything ever getting off the ground here.
But here again we have the turnout worry. Specifically, that labor has the advantage. People are banging phones and knocking on doors and sitting in the back rooms of labor halls stuffing envelopes — all volunteers and all working for free. Republicans, with their complete certainty that the private sector can do no wrong, have limited themselves mostly to hiring firms to make robo-calls and send mailers. Any volunteers come from the Tea Party which, let’s face it, is looking a lot like a flash in the pan at the moment. They can’t turn out the free workers that unions can.
None of this is to say that Democrats will ultimately be successful in turning over control of the state senate. They need a net gain of three seats. Those three winners at the top of the post include an incumbent. But right now, from everything I’m seeing, it’s pretty much a 50/50.
It just depends on who wants it more.
Stories to Watch: 6/1/11
Making burgers. On the grill. Because that’s the sort of thing I do. Now here’s the news…
Republicans don’t like it when President Obama tells them that tax rates are lower now than under Reagan. In fact, they pretty much refuse to believe it. Proof yet again that the GOP is at war with reality.
Sarah Palin met with Fox News execs; presumably to decide whether she’s running for president or being a Fox personality. She can’t do both and stay clear of the law.
Latest maybe-gonna-run-for-prez: Jim DeMint. Sooner or later, Republicans are going to have to come to grips with the idea that the candidates they have are the candidates they have. If they don’t like them, tough. Finding new nuts that are exactly like the ones already running isn’t going to save their asses.
Wisconsin recall target Dan Kapanke isn’t feeling any voter love for Republicans. “We’ve got tons of government workers in my district — tons,” he says. “From La Crosse to Prairie du Chien and to Viroqua and to Ontario and to Hillsboro, you can go on and on and on. We have to overcome that. We gotta hope that they, kind of, are sleeping on July 12th — or whenever the date is.” That quote wasn’t meant for public consumption, by the way — according to the report, it was “secretly recorded.” He also doesn’t hold out a lot of hope for Randy Hopper or Alberta Darling.
Jesus may have ruled out a presidential bid for Mike Huckabee, but he didn’t say anything about the veepee slot.
Rep. Anthony Weiner doesn’t make the most convincing argument in the world that an underwear shot is not of him.
Finally, a class act all the way, Sarah Palin goes to Ellis Island to bash the DREAM Act.