One of the successes of the Tea Party movement at the end of the legislative session was the stopping of the bill to create a massive, automatically-generated online voter registration system. The Democratic proposal would have required the Government Accountability Board (GAB) to cross-reference the existing voter registration file with state databases like the Department of Motor Vehicles’ drivers license file to create voter registrations for people who are not yet registered, regardless of the citizen’s intent. The registrations would be open to confirmation online, supposedly in a secure manner.
The same bill would have allowed the sharing of information with third-party ACORN-like organizations. It was a formula rife with the possibility of fraud, and we’re fortunate it was stopped.
However, while further openings to fraud were stymied with the close of the legislative session, progress in preventing fraud was stalled on another front by the GAB. A group of activists concerned with potential voter fraud launched the “We’re Watching Wisconsin Elections Campaign.” They encouraged people to contact their local clerks to require photo identification before a ballot can be issued in their name. The process would be completely voluntary. All it would require of the clerk is to note “ID REQUIRED” next to the name of the person that requested it.
The GAB ruled that because there is not legislation authorizing the clerks to make such a notation, the clerks should not accept any such requests from voters. The GAB did not find a law that would prohibit such notations before issuing their ruling. Nor could they provide any evidence that a voter would be disenfranchised by making the request of the clerk to require a photo ID as it would be purely voluntary. Nonetheless, the GAB decided against allowing such a simple step to prevent voter fraud.
A similar effort failed in the state legislature. A bill sponsored by State Representative Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) and State Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) would have allowed people to make the request of the clerk to put a notation next to their names in the voter registration list to require a photo ID. Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) prevented the bill from consideration in the Assembly in a parliamentary maneuver. Sheridan moved the bill from the Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform to the Rules Committee on April 9th. By moving the bill so close to the end of the legislative session, Sheridan prevented the bill from sitting in the committee the 21 days necessary before a pulling motion could be made on the floor of the Assembly. Sheridan’s maneuver saved his fellow Democrats from an embarrassing vote against a measure that would have helped prevent voter fraud.
Ironically, the GAB’s action in stopping the voluntary voter photo ID requirement came the same day as the board considered how it would deal with future cases like the vote fraud in Green Bay. During the spring local elections, two voters were told at separate polling places someone had already cast a ballot in their name. In the case of one of the elections where an allegedly fraudulent ballot was cast, the election result was close enough to require a recount, and one of the candidates said fraud might have swayed the election.
The GAB’s response is to require in future instances of when a ballot is already cast in someone’s name and they show up at the polls, the person disenfranchised by the alleged fraud is to cast a challenged ballot and the ballot is to be marked in case the election result is close enough to be contested. Then the police are notified.
Of course, this does not prevent the voter fraud, but only accommodates our elections to the fraud. In the case of the Green Bay vote fraud cases, nobody has been identified as the person casting an illegal ballot. In the contested election, one ballot was tossed out at random as required by law, possibly disenfranchising a second voter because of the alleged fraud.
The city of Green Bay is not waiting on the GAB to wake up to the issue of vote fraud. The city council is considering a resolution supporting a law that would require mandatory voter identification to prevent the fraud that plagued their last election. It would be a resolution well worth listening to by the legislature.
By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute