If you can't win the vote fairly, suppress voters. This has been a Republican tactic for years, and it's running rampant in Wisconsin. While polls are showing Russ Feingold at a shocking disadvantage to his teabagger opponent Ron Johnson, the GOP and Americans for Prosperity are working behind the scenes on a voter suppression scam that is on a far wider scale, but no different than Republicans have used for years.
Here's how it works: A mailer is sent to registered voters. Any mailers returned by the post office are put in a database and those voters are submitted to be purged from voting rolls. Of course, the targets are never Republican voters. They're Democrats, and generally minority voters in particular. Here's a better explanation from the Brennan Center for Justice:
Voter caging is the practice of sending mail to addresses on the voter rolls, compiling a list of the mail that is returned undelivered, and using that list to purge or challenge voters registrations on the grounds that the voters on the list do not legally reside at their registered addresses. Supporters of voter caging defend the practice as a means of preventing votes cast by ineligible voters. Voter caging, however, is notoriously unreliable. If it is treated (unjustifiably) as the sole basis for determining that a voter is ineligible or does not live at the address at which he or she registered, it can lead to the unwarranted purge or challenge of eligible voters. …Moreover, the practice has often been targeted at minority voters, making the effects even more pernicious. [Brennan Center, “A Guide to Voter Caging,” 6/29/07]
That audio file at the top is a recording obtained by One Wisconsin Now of a meeting of Wisconsin Tea Party leaders. Here's the plot:
According to the statements made on the recordings, Dake lays out the plans, detailing contact between himself and Reince Preibus, the Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair and Mark Block, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin:
- The Republican Party of Wisconsin will use its “Voter Vault” state-wide voter file to compile a list of minority and student voters in targeted Wisconsin communities.
- Americans for Prosperity will use this list to send mail to these voters indicating the voter must call and confirm their registration information, and telling them if they do not call the number provided they could be removed from the voter lists.
- The Tea Party organizations will recruit and place individuals as official poll workers in selected municipalities in order to be able to make the challenges as official poll workers.
- On Election Day, these organizations will then “make use” of any postcards that are returned as undeliverable to challenge voters at the polls, utilizing law enforcement, as well as attorneys trained and provided by the RPW, to support their challenges.
In the case of students, this is particularly insidious, since a student may indeed be a registered voter in Wisconsin but not have the same address, given their tendency to move at the end of a semester. But you can see what's going on here -- it is a concerted effort, funded and pushed by Americans for Prosperity -- to suppress minority and young voters, and in so doing to win an election by strongarm rather than by votes.
One Wisconsin Now has uncovered this plot with evidence, but don't assume this is limited to Wisconsin. I guarantee you it isn't. They are targeting as many states as they can, but particularly swing states. Expect Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona just to name a few to have the exact same operations afoot.
Voter suppression undermines democracy. It is a bully tactic to disenfranchise minority and young voters. If you're as angry about this as I am, consider visiting Save Wisconsin's Vote and taking action.