Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Voter Disenfranchisement Day!

Last year, after the first couple of months of protests were starting to subside, I took my first trip to Madison since I was a kid.  While there, I met a few people that I had only known via the social media and only because the state was starting to wake up to the horrible mistake it made by allowing Scott Walker to assume the office of governor with a Republican majority in both houses of the legislature.

I still remember the disgust and the sickening feeling of having to pass through metal detectors manned by DNR agents because the Republicans were afraid of the people and didn't give two figs about Wisconsin progressive tradition or honoring its storied history of keeping the People's House open to the people.

That feeling came rushing back to me as I went to vote this evening for the first time under the Republican's voter suppression law.

Scott Walker and the Republicans rammed the law through supposedly to fight the widespread voter fraud that no one has ever been able to prove. They allegedly were concerned about protecting the sanctity of the ballot and make sure each vote counted.

The truth is anything but that.

When I arrived at my polling place, it was dead.  Even though it was a primary election and my ward only had three races to vote in, it traditionally had a flow of people, even if it was a slow one.  I was the only voter there during the entire time.  With less than two hours to go before the polls closed, I was voter #74, a number lower than normal.  I couldn't help but wonder how much was due to it being a primary and how much of it was due to people not wanting to bother with the voter suppression.

I went to the table and showed them my ID, which they only took a perfunctory glance at before asking me my last name and looking it up in their registration book.  After they found my name, it was the same as it was in the last 28 years of my life, and blank, since the rampant voter fraud was apparently not as rampant as Walker would have you believe.

After they wrote down my voter number next to my name, the poll worker pushed the book towards me with a pencil and said I had to sign it.  This was new.  I said I knew about the Jim Crow law of having to show an ID, but asked why did I have to sign the book as well.

Another poll worker said that the ID was only gave me the privilege to vote, but I had to sign the book to protect it.  I looked at him flatly and said that my privilege to vote was given to me when they signed the US Constitution.

I again asked the first poll worker why I had to sign the book.  She said it was to protect my vote in case something got litigated.  It was to protect my right to vote.  I asked her how my right to vote was being protected by having to sign it with a pencil.  After all, a pencil could easily be erased and someone else could sign my name and claim I was the fraud.  The lady only shrugged and said that they had questioned it as well, but they were only given the pencils.

Intellectually, I knew all along that the voter suppression law was just that.  A way to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for some people - especially the poor, the disabled, the elderly and college students - to vote.  But to see the full impact of the way Scott Walker and the Republicans have made a mockery of our democratic process,

Fake IDs are crafted on a regular basis and can be gotten relatively cheaply - just ask any bouncer at a bar.
And even if genuine, ID cards don't show if a person is eligible to vote.

But having people sign in pencil is the dead giveaway to the falseness behind this law.  When we have Republican operatives poring over recall signatures and trying to flag ones simply on the basis that they can't read them, why bother having them sign at the time of voting.  Or are the Republicans planning on challenging everyone's votes when they lose, based on the fact that they can't read the signature?  And if they were so concerned about security, why wouldn't they use ink instead of something that can be so simply erased?

The fact that this law provides no security to the vote that wasn't already in place before, but does add hindrances to the people by adding a poll tax or punishing them for being indigent and/or transient, makes it painfully apparent for what it really is - a way for Walker and his allies to disenfranchise the voters in an effort to retain their slipping grasp to power.


  1. The only way I knew who to vote for in the one race on my ballot (judge) was because Jon Erpenbach endorsed her on t.v. And I like Jon Erpenbach.

    They gave me a pen to sign with, so maybe the fraud quotient varies from district to district?

    I could not convince my daughter to go to the polls, even if given a ride, so maybe the real barrier was indifference rather than a problem having the right ID... Truth to tell, this was the kind of election in the past I would have just sat out. Good thing I saw Jon Erpenbach's ad.

  2. I promise you that we did not use pencil at the polling place in Madison I was working today; red ball point pens. I worked for a number of years at polls in California where they have had a signature requirement for as long as I lived there (25 years), and we/they never used pencil.

    I also looked at the WI statutes (6.79.2) to see what it says, and it doesn't specify anything about what is to be used to enter the signature, just that a signature be entered.

  3. We had no election in our precinct today, but as a poll worker I can assure you that we only use pens for anything election related.

    Oddly, we have been having people sign in for years. It's a holdover from the days when small rural precincts did not require registration to vote - just a sign in. The only difference now is that they will sign the poll book rather than a separate notebook.

    I am cringing at the thought that some of our elderly folks who have been voting for years may not have current ID. We all know them, could swear to their identity in a court of law, and we still have to ask for ID and turn them away if they don't have it.

  4. You really didn't know, with all that has been reported in media including blogs, that the law required not only ID but also signing the book?

    They were there for optional use in the recall elections, too, as a practice run. You must not be in a district that had a recall last summer.

  5. "We have to pass the bill to find out whats in it" -Nancy Pelosi on health care reform.

    Oh my, signature? whats next? Poll tax?

  6. It took the initial poll workers about a minute to find my name on the rolls even though it is a common name like "Smith" and I have voted in the same precint for 20 years. Both workers were nice senior citizens, but frankly they were a little past it. I can't imagine how they would cope during a heavy election turn out.

    At the next station I was required, for the first time ever, to sign in. I've already shown a picture I.D. so what the hell is the point of this? Obviously it is to slow down the voting. Why not take finger prints too?

    The poll worker pushed a red pen at me, insisting that I must use it. I pulled out my own, not wanting to use the communal one since a wicked noro virus is working it's way around Madison. She was upset by this and gave me the skunk-eye as I signed in black ink. It was quite bizarre. I flashed back to famous moments from Grade School.

    It seems like some of these poll workers are making up their own rules. What's next, a DNA swab?

  7. This was odd, I clicked on your "Milwaukee County First" link and the first article I read was about getting a free prescription ID card to use for Rx savings at local pharmacies. I would think I should just be able to "show up" at my local Walgreens and get this discount. After all, I've been going to this pharmacy for ten years. Happy Pharmacy Disenfranchisement Day!

    1. Funny. I looked at the Constitution and it didn't say a thing about Walgreens or prescription discounts. It did mention voting though.

      Go figure.

  8. "prescription ID card to use for Rx savings"

    You must've missed that episode.

    1. You, sir, owe me a new monitor. The old one has soda all over it now.

  9. "This was odd, I clicked on your "Milwaukee County First" link and the first article I read was about getting a free prescription ID card to use for Rx savings at local pharmacies. I would think I should just be able to "show up" at my local Walgreens and get this discount. After all, I've been going to this pharmacy for ten years. Happy Pharmacy Disenfranchisement Day!"