‘Real voter fraud’
One of the bills passed in the state Assembly’s marathon closing session contained changes to the voter ID law to make the law better withstand a court challenge. Again, supporters of the bill said that it was needed to restore confidence in the state’s electoral processes. At almost the same time an expert witness, Prof. Lorraine Minnite of Rutgers University, who has spent years studying voter fraud, was testifying in court in one of the challenges to the existing voter ID law. She called voter fraud in Wisconsin “exceedingly rare.”
Minnite’s definition of voter fraud was “the intentional corruption of the election process by voters.” With this definition, she missed the real voter fraud that undermines confidence in the electoral process. The Republicans, who have controlled state government for the past several years, have perpetrated the real fraud.
One element of the fraud is voter ID. When the law was originally passed, the League of Women Voters testified that about 300,000 voters in the state did not have an ID that would meet the standards of the law. Most of these people are seniors, young or poor. In Southwest Wisconsin, the group that will probably be most adversely impacted is elderly women, who no longer have a valid drivers license. Because of possible name changes, these women will have a particularly difficult time finding the documents needed to get a photo ID. It is difficult to guess how many people will be denied the right to vote, if the courts ever approve the voter ID law, but the number is certainly larger than the number of “exceedingly rare” cases of voter-perpetrated fraud.
The second aspect of voter fraud is gerrymandering district boundaries. Computer software and databases of the 21st century have made this practice a science. Boundaries are drawn to pack the most voters from the opposition party into as few districts as possible. The result is a few very secure opposition districts and many secure districts for the party drawing the lines. It worked so well that in 2012 Republicans got the fewest votes for the Assembly, the State Senate and the House, but they got the most seats in every case and they continue to control state government.
We need to be concerned about the real fraud in our electoral system. Voting should be easy for all eligible voters, and a nonpartisan body should draw district boundaries to ensure the equal value of all of our votes. Republicans passed the voter ID law, and they refuse to have a hearing on proposals to move to a non-partisan districting process. They are, however, concerned about confidence in our electoral processes. I wonder why.
Wittwer is the Democratic candidate for the 17th Senate District.
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