Saturday, May 21, 2011

How Many Democrats Voted In Wisconsin Election While On Vacation?

Last month, Wisconsin's April 5 municipal elections featured a hotly-contested statewide race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court between incumbent Justice David Prosser and his Democratic challenger, Joanne Kloppenburg. Democrats and unions turned the election into a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker's legislative efforts to rein in public employees collective bargaining rights as a way of bringing state spending under control. Liberal activists from all over the country besieged the State House in Madison for days while a group of Democratic lawmakers fled to Illinois to shut down the legislative process to block Walker's legislative agenda. At first, it appeared Kloppenburg narrowly defeated Prosser by a couple hundred votes, but a tabulation error swung the results more than 7,000 votes in Prosser's favor. That prompted a recount, which confirmed Prosser's win this week. It now look like some of those out-of-state activists may have illegally registered to vote in the Wisconsin election.

Tommy Schrader is a perennial Democratic candidate in Allen County. In February, he filed for an at-large Fort Wayne city council race for the May 2 Democratic primary in Indiana. Schrader finished third out five candidates in the primary, winning one of three Democratic spots for the general election. There was only one problem. Schrader took a short vacation to Wisconsin during the primary election where he registered and cast a vote in the Wisconsin April 5 municipal election. Now the Allen County Democrats want Schrader bounced from the ballot for failing to maintain a residence in Fort Wayne. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Benjamin Lanka explains Shrader's short vacation to Wisconsin:

Schrader is a perennial candidate and said he took a vacation to Wisconsin during the campaign season this year because he did not expect to win. He finished third in a five-way Democratic race for Fort Wayne City Council at large, securing one of the party’s three nominations.

He told the election board, however, that he registered to vote in Green Bay and participated in that city’s municipal election. These revelations prompted the board to determine he did not meet local residency requirements.
The Allen County Election Board voted unanimously to remove Schrader from the November election ballot for failing to meet the residency requirement, but the Democrats have also filed a lawsuit in the circuit court to have him deemed ineligible and to permit the fourth place finisher in the primary, George Guido, to be added to the November election ballot. Unbelievably, Schrader tells Lanka he plans to appeal the election board's ruling.

One might wonder how a Fort Wayne resident who was candidate for office this year could have taken a short vacation to Green Bay, Wisconsin and been able to register and vote there. The answer lies in a state law that allows persons to register to vote the same day as an election in Wisconsin. The state is one of nine states in the country that allow voters to register and vote on the same day as the election. Republicans have long criticized the law, arguing that it creates chaos on election day when election officials are tasked not only with administering the election but also registering new voters. Republicans also contend the law makes voter fraud much easier. As many as 10% to 15% of the votes cast in Wisconsin are done so by voters who register on election day. That amounted to 406,000 votes in the 2008 presidential election.

The Republican-controlled legislature this year considered doing away with the same-day registration law, but it opted instead for a voter ID law similar to Indiana's law that requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a vote. Perhaps Tommy Schrader will become Exhibit A for why same-day registration is not such a good idea. Hopefully, Allen Co. election authorities have already or will notify Wisconsin officials to investigate Schrader for voter fraud. It also makes you wonder just how many Democratic activists from outside Wisconsin took advantage of the same-day registration law in April's election. Wisconsin saw a record voter turnout this year, 33%, for what is normally low turnout in the state's spring municipal election.

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