WI's Republican AG Files Voter Suppression Suit

The Republican Attorney General of Wisconsin is in a position to meddle with elections, so of course he can't resist. J.B. Van Hollen has sued the state because it has not forced local clerks to "crosscheck voter names with driver's license records for voters who registered to vote or changed their addresses on or after Jan. 1, 2006." State election officials argue that conducting any required crosschecks "would cripple efforts to prepare for the Nov. 4 presidential election because they don't have the staff to check so many names in the next eight weeks."

If Van Hollen wanted to solve the problem, he would work with the governor and legislature to find a political resolution. That he chose instead to file a suit that seeks the disenfranchisement of newly registered voters suggests that Van Hollen's true motivation is the suppression of Wisconsin's new voters because they are enthusiastic supporters of Barack Obama. That suspicion is only heightened by Van Hollen's role as "state co-chair of John McCain's presidential campaign."


Van Hollen's lawsuit seeks an order that would impose a severe burden on the electoral process -- a burden that the Justice Department does not require. Van Hollen filed suit to force county clerks "to check the names of everyone who filed registration papers on or after Jan. 1, 2006 - more than 1 million people."

Department of Justice officials have said they want election officials to check only the names of those who filed paperwork by mail or with special registration deputies that work for volunteer groups. That would affect about 241,000 voters.

The fear is that Van Hollen's lawsuit would disenfranchise any legitimate voter who gave an address or other information on the registration forms that doesn't precisely match DOT records.

Board officials say it is common for voters to have data that does not match for innocent reasons, such as missing middle initials or mistyped driver's license IDs. One in five voters who registered to vote last month initially failed the data check. ...

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) said as the highest-ranking elected Republican in Wisconsin, Van Hollen "should be careful not to use his office to try to undermine democracy. Bureaucratic failures should not deny someone's right to vote."

Van Hollen's public position -- he denies that he's trying to remove everyone who doesn't pass a crosscheck -- differs from the remedy his lawsuit seeks.

Van Hollen's suit asks a Dane County judge to issue an order "to remove ineligible voters" from the voters list.

Van Hollen's special assistant provides a more nuanced explanation:

He said Van Hollen is not asking the state to take away the voting rights of people who have missing initials or other minor errors because that's a matter for the board to decide.

So Van Hollen just wants the clerks to identify the voters who have missing initials and it will be up to the Government Accountability Board to decide whether they get to vote. Great. And why are we doing all this in the absence of any but the most anecdotal evidence that fraudulent registration is a problem?

Van Hollen is doing this because Barack Obama inspired record numbers of new voter registrations in Wisconsin. The more of those voters who are disenfranchised on a technicality, the better are John McCain's chances of winning Wisconsin. What's good for John McCain is good for J.B. Van Hollen. He can look forward to a nice job in the McCain administration.

And that's just one more reason to vote for Obama.

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    I have blood pressure issues (none / 0) (#1)
    by gentlyweepingguitar on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:39:10 PM EST
    I can't take this. Say it isn't so.

    Who says all newly registered voters all drive? There's no law stating you have to have a driver's license in order to vote.

    Why (none / 0) (#2)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:43:34 PM EST
    am I getting the feeling that the whole narrative is being set up to say that Obama lost because of voter suppression?

    These are the kind of tactics that show us why we need a fighter for a candidate. Someone who will fight these guys tooth and nail and not walk away.

    polling suggests equal (none / 0) (#3)
    by waldenpond on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:46:19 PM EST
    It was out yesterday, but pollsters started inquiring after new voters.... 47% for Obama and 44% for McCain.  I'm guessing this guy hasn't seen the polls or else he has knowledge his state is not typical of the national trend. (don't ask me for a link, I can't remember who had the poll, I just found the numbers surprising)

    Somebody should crosscheck... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:09:06 PM EST
    bodycheck, hipcheck, anycheck what Van Hollen and the vote counters are up to...I'm none too worried about what the Americans pulling the levers DMV info says.

    Besides...if you live here and don't have the technical legal right to vote and your voice squeaks through, that's not exactly the end of the world, is it?  As long as nobody is voting twice we're all good.

    Voter Suppression (none / 0) (#5)
    by mmc9431 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 08:27:07 PM EST
    Yesterday was the foreclosure list in MI and names placed on the bottom of the ballot in MS, today this and tomorrow it will be something else. These issues combined with  the states that have imposed voter ID requirements are going to play a major role in the outcome in Nov. We may be setting the stage for another Sumpreme Court decision in Nov.

    Two forms of voter suppression (none / 0) (#6)
    by AnnJo on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 08:43:51 PM EST
    Voter suppression can work two ways: Type 1 voter suppression is preventing a legitimate voter from voting, and Type 2 is suppressing the vote of a legitimate voter by canceling it out with one cast by an illegitimate voter.

    In both cases, a legitimate voter didn't get his/her vote counted.  

    Vote suppressors are people who try to do either of those things:  Keep legitimate voters from voting and allow illegitimate voters to vote.  It's a truly bi-partisan endeavor.

    Poster Kdog is a Type 2 vote suppressor, who obviously doesn't care about voter rights, but only partisan "ends justify the means" success.  Pretty common, but not exactly the moral high ground.  

    I care about... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Fri Sep 12, 2008 at 09:17:00 AM EST
    voices of the people being heard.  I don't really care who wins, hence am not "partisan".

    All I'm saying is which is a worse crime against democracy...denying a legitimate voter their vote because they moved and didn't tell the DMV, or an ex-con who has been disenfranchised squeaks by and gets his/her voice heard when techinically they aren't allowed to have a voice?

    Van Hollen's cure is worse than the disease.


    Techinically (sic)? (none / 0) (#10)
    by AnnJo on Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 12:41:48 PM EST
    There's nothing "technical" about it.  In a democracy, the voters have decided one of the punishments for certain crimes is disenfranchisement.  Apparently you are not only perfectly comfortable with the vote of a legitimate voter being made worthless by being offset by a convict's, but the vote of the entire citizenry being disregarded, as long as the people YOU want voting get to vote.

    To answer your question, they are both equal crimes against democracy.  They both prevent the vote of a legitimate voter from having its effect.

    Most states now have measures like provisional ballots in place to prevent legitimate voters from losing their right to vote because they've lost their ID or have moved and their ID doesn't match the DMV's.  


    The story says this is federal law flouted (none / 0) (#7)
    by Cream City on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 09:46:40 PM EST
    by Wisconsin:

    Such checks were required under federal law as of that date, but the board didn't start performing them until last month because of technical problems.

    Are you saying that is wrong, TChris?  Have other states complied, but Wisconsin's now legendary series of technology screwups under Doyle's outsourcing -- a Dem governor being a major proponent of outsourcing -- are not the problem?

    New legislation required (none / 0) (#8)
    by Linkmeister on Fri Sep 12, 2008 at 01:44:17 AM EST
    I'd really like to see a Federal law stating that states' election supervisors are forbidden to act as chairmen for candidates of any stripe.  Bye bye, Harris, and Blackwell, and Van Hollen.