Voter ID sup­pressed the vote ex­actly as Wis­con­sin Repub­li­cans pre­dicted

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page - By Mary Bot­tari Cen­ter for Me­dia and Democ­racy

A new study of reg­is­tered vot­ers in Dane and Mil­wau­kee coun­ties who did not vote in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion found that some­where be­tween 17,000 and 23,000 el­i­gi­ble vot­ers in those coun­ties were pre­vented or de­terred from voting by Wis­con­sin’s voter ID law.

Due to fi­nan­cial con­straints, the so­cial sci­en­tists were only able to study two of Wis­con­sin’s 72 coun­ties, but the au­thors say that statewide ex­trap­o­la­tion sug­gests as many as 45,000 peo­ple stayed home — or were turned away — be­cause of the law.

Don­ald Trump won the state of Wis­con­sin by only 22,000 votes, the first GOP pres­i­den­tial vic­tory in the state since Ron­ald Re­gan in 1984. The shock­ing upset gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion and helped de­liver the elec­toral col­lege to Trump, even as the na­tional pop­u­lar vote went to Clin­ton.

The study was con­ducted by Ken Mayer and Michael G. DeCrescenzo, both fac­ulty mem­bers of the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sinMadi­son Depart­ment of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence. It shows that the con­tro­ver­sial voter ID bill — passed in 2011 and held up in the courts un­til 2016 — worked pre­cisely as Wis­con­sin Repub­li­cans in­tended, by mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for tar­geted vot­ers to cast their bal­lots.

Al­though voter pref­er­ences were not in­cluded in the study, the sur­vey shows that the bur­dens of voter ID fell dis­pro­por­tion­ately on low-in­come and mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions — pre­cisely the tar­geted groups con­sid­ered likely to sup­port Democrats. While the law de­terred only about 7 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers whose house­hold in­come was over $25,000, it de­terred 21 per­cent of low-in­come reg­is­trants — those with house­hold in­come un­der $25,000. The law de­terred about 8 per­cent of white reg­is­trants, com­pared to al­most 28 per­cent of African Amer­i­cans.

Roughly 80 per­cent of reg­is­trants who were de­terred from voting by the law — and 77 per­cent of those ac­tu­ally pre­vented from voting — cast bal­lots in the 2012 elec­tion.

The re­sults prompted the county clerks from Mil­wau­kee and Madi­son to is­sue strongly worded state­ments and a call for a sus­pen­sion of the voter ID law. “As the clerk who serves the largest pop­u­la­tion of African-Amer­i­cans in the state, I was shocked by the num­bers and am fu­ri­ous to see that Jim Crow laws are alive and well,” said Mil­wau­kee County Clerk Ge­orge Chris­ten­son.

“It is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able that thou­sands of vot­ers were de­terred from ex­er­cis­ing their sa­cred right to vote

due to this law. … The photo ID law must be suspended un­til changes can be made to re­store every voter’s ac­cess to the bal­lot box,” said Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, whose of­fice com­mis­sioned the study.


While most Repub­li­cans stuck to the of­fi­cial talk­ing points that the photo ID law was all about pre­vent­ing “voter fraud” — which is essen­tially nonex­is­tent — some for­got the script.

On the night of Wis­con­sin’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, Repub­li­can Con­gress­man Glenn Groth­man flatly stated that Wis­con­sin’s photo ID law would help the GOP win Wis­con­sin in the Novem­ber 2016 elec­tion.

When asked about the fact that Wis­con­sin has con­sis­tently voted for Democrats in re­cent pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, Groth­man char­ac­ter­ized Hil­lary Clin­ton as a “weak can­di­date,” then added, “and now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is gonna make a lit­tle bit of a dif­fer­ence as well.”

Rep. Groth­man was a State Se­na­tor in 2011 when Wis­con­sin de­bated and passed its voter ID law, so he was privy to the back-room con­ver­sa­tions and deal mak­ing on the is­sue.

Those con­ver­sa­tions came to light five years later when the bill was im­ple­mented and peo­ple im­me­di­ately started hav­ing prob­lems.

For­mer GOP staffer turned cof­fee shop owner, Todd Al­baugh, was frus­trated when one of his em­ploy­ees could not vote in the 2016 spring elec­tions and de­cided to blow the whis­tle.

Al­baugh — who once worked for Wis­con­sin Se­na­tor Dale Schultz, R-Rich­land Cen­ter — stated in a so­cial me­dia post:

“I was in a closed Se­nate Repub­li­can Cau­cus when the fi­nal round of mul­ti­ple Voter ID bills were be­ing dis­cussed. A hand­ful of GOP Se­na­tors were giddy about the ram­i­fi­ca­tions and lit­er­ally sin­gled out the prospects of sup­press­ing mi­nor­ity and col­lege vot­ers. Think about that for minute. Elected of­fi­cials happy to help deny a fel­low Amer­i­can’s con­sti­tu­tional right to vote in order to in­crease their own chances to hang onto power.”

“A vig­or­ous de­bate on the ideas wasn’t good enough,” said Al­baugh, “they had to take the cow­ard’s way out and come up with a plan to sup­press the vote un­der the guise of ‘voter fraud.’”

Later, on the wit­ness stand in a law­suit brought by One Wis­con­sin Now chal­leng­ing the voter ID law, Al­baugh de­scribed the ten­sion in the closed-door cau­cus as pro­vi­sions in the bill were be­ing de­bated.

Al­baugh tes­ti­fied that com­mit­tee chair Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Ber­lin, made the case for pass­ing the bill, which made it much harder for stu­dents, the el­derly and the poor to vote:

“She got up out of her chair and hit her fist or her fin­ger on the ta­ble and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to think about what this would mean for the neigh­bor­hoods around Mil­wau­kee and the col­lege cam­puses,’” Al­baugh said.

“Groth­man said, ‘What I’m con­cerned about here is win­ning, and that’s what re­ally mat­ters here. … We bet­ter get this done quickly while we have the op­por­tu­nity,’” Al­baugh tes­ti­fied.

Al­baugh named two other se­na­tors — Leah Vuk­mir, R-Brook­field, and Randy Hop­per, R-Fond du Lac — as be­ing glee­ful over pass­ing the bill. “They were po­lit­i­cally froth­ing at the mouth,” he said.

Hop­per lost a re­call elec­tion a few months af­ter the voter ID law passed, and Vuk­mir is now run­ning for U.S. Se­nate.


All four of the leg­is­la­tors named by Al­baugh were at the time mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil. Vuk­mir served for years as an of­fi­cer of ALEC, was its na­tional chair­man in 2016, and was given its “Iron Woman” Award in 2017.

ALEC is a Koch brothers-funded out­fit that de­vel­ops and pro­motes model leg­is­la­tion push­ing its right-wing agenda.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion drafted a model Voter ID Act in Au­gust 2009. The bills that fol­lowed its model were con­structed dif­fer­ently by dif­fer­ent GOP leg­is­la­tures, but have a com­mon pur­pose — to dis­en­fran­chise con­stituen­cies that are more likely to vote Demo­cratic.

ALEC has at­tempted to dis­tance it­self from this ugly his­tory of voter sup­pres­sion, by do­ing away with its “Pub­lic Safety and Elec­tions Task Force” and no longer tout­ing model voter ID leg­is­la­tion. These moves came in the wake of sus­tained cam­paign­ing by the on­line civil-rights group Color of Change and oth­ers, but ALEC has done noth­ing to get voter ID poli­cies re­pealed in the states where its mem­bers pushed for and passed the bills.

The par­ti­san mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the Voter ID Act com­ports with vi­sion of ALEC’s founder, the late Paul Weyrich of Wis­con­sin, who in 1980 told a group of re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ists: “I don’t want ev­ery­body to vote. Elec­tions are not won by a ma­jor­ity of peo­ple, they never have been from the be­gin­ning of our coun­try and they are not now. As a mat­ter of fact, our lever­age in the elec­tions quite can­didly goes up as the voting pop­u­lace goes down.”

Mary Bot­tari is the Deputy Di­rec­tor of Madi­son’s Cen­ter for Me­dia and Democ­racy. Democ­racy, a non­profit watch­dog and ad­vo­cacy group based in Madi­son.

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