Total Recall: How to make sure your vote is counted (and legal) today
Post by Christie Taylor on 6/5/2012 9:00am
A predicted 60 to 65 percent of the Wisconsin electorate heads to the polls (assuming they haven’t already voted absentee) today to decide the fates of Governor Scott Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four state senators.
It’s an election that both polls and the candidates say will be close. The state Department of Justice is sending more than a dozen teams to observe polling places in Madison, Milwaukee, and Waukesha County. The Federal Justice Department will also send observers to Milwaukee to watch out for discriminatory voting practices that violate the Voting Rights Act.
So, how can you be sure your rights will be observed and your vote counted tonight? Here are some tips.
* Visit the state’s Voter Public Access site and click ‘Voter Search’ to find out your registration status and where your polling place is. Even if you haven’t moved, it may be different from last year, as many voters were shifted thanks to redistricting. In addition, if you have lived at your current address for fewer than 28 days, you must register and vote based on your previous address.
* Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. If you are still in line at 8 p.m., you must be allowed to vote.
* In Madison, Union Cab will be giving voters free, nonpartisan rides to the polls and back. Call (608) 242-2000.
At the polls
* If you voted absentee already, stay home and do not attempt to cast an in-person ballot. Previously, the absentee ballot would simply be tossed out, but now you can be charged with a felony.
* You can register at the polls on the day of an election. To do so, you must bring proof of residency (in paper, not electronic form). If your proof is a utility bill, it must be newer than 90 days old.
* The new Voter ID law is still enjoined, and photo identification is not required to either vote or register. If you don't have a driver's license or state I.D., you can use the last four numbers of your Social Security number when registering.
* Don’t wear campaign apparel or carry political signs into the polling location.
Casting your ballot
* If you make a mistake on your ballot, you are entitled to two “do-over” ballots, or three total. If you’re having difficulty completing your ballot, ask a poll worker for help.
* Don’t share photos of your completed ballot, whether on social networks or elsewhere. Providing proof that you’ve voted for a certain candidate is illegal because it historically enabled people to sell their vote.
Ask for help / report problems
If you should encounter problems at your polling place, such as a poll worker demanding you show I.D. to vote or register, there are several places you can turn:
* Wisconsin Election Protection, a nonpartisan coalition of attorneys and voting rights advocates that includes the Wisconsin ACLU will field questions and offer tips all day long. Report incidents, or ask questions, on Twitter, via Facebook, or by calling their hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
* The ACLU itself has several “know your rights” voting sheets, including information for convicted felons (in Wisconsin, they’re allowed to vote once they serve their term).
* The Democratic Party’s voter protection hotline is already live, and will be answered by volunteers in Milwaukee. Call 1-800-311-VOTE.
* The GAB has several forms on its website for reporting voter intimidation, electioneering, issues with election officials, and more. Their hotline number is 1-866-VOTE-WIS.
Some notes on legitimacy and fraud
The word “recount” is already in the air, though both candidates say they’re not thinking about that yet. Taxpayers foot the bill for a recount if the election is within half of a percentage point. With more than 2 million voters expected to cast their ballot by the end of the night that means a difference of 5,000 or fewer votes. Meanwhile, right-wing radio and Walker supporters, including Scott Walker himself and cheesehead/RNC chair Reince Priebus, have been raising the spectre of voter fraud for the past couple weeks.
For example, Walker’s hinted that too close a race should be seen as illegitimate: As he told one newspaper, “one or two percent” of the final number of votes against him are likely to be fraudulent. Again, if two million vote, and it’s even remotely close to a 50-50 split, that’s 10,000 - 20,000 hypothetically fraudulent votes he’s casually speculating about. Fact-checking site Politifact gives Priebus’ version, at least, a firm “False” rating, and the Brennan Center for Justice, based at the New York University School of Law, noted scant evidence for fraud on that scale in a 2007 report. The Government Accountability Board, too, says it's found no more than 20 cases of fraudulent voting in any election dating back to 2000.
On the other side, controversial Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Niklaus, a Republican, has said she will be in charge of the county’s election returns Tuesday night. This comes after several calls for her to to resign, a statement that she would not oversee the recall election, and a confused primary election in which she, in fact, did appear to oversee proceedings. The error-plagued office now reports results electronically instead of by hand, and the May 8 primary was without major issues, but that hasn’t quelled all the fears about the Republican-heavy county’s accuracy in reporting.
In addition, Democratic state Rep. John Richards, in an open letter to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, questioned the distribution of state attorneys to areas with high Democratic turnout. For example, he said, the dispatching of a single team to all of Waukesha County was disproportionate to its size and turnout. “Washington, Ozaukee, and Waukesha counties are some of the highest turnout counties in the state,” he said. “Likewise, the cities of Waukesha, Brookfield and New Berlin...are major cities of comparable size and which deserve the same attention you are giving to Appleton, Wausau, Beloit and La Crosse.”
Update: DOJ spokesperson Dana Brueck said to dane101 that this year's distribution is consistent with past efforts to oversee election integrity. "It's about having teams in large population centers," she said. "If we hear of an issue nearby, they're within range so they can respond appropriately. They're out in the region and can get there in a reasonable amount of time."
She also stressed that the assistant attorney generals and DCI special agents who will comprise these teams were as likely to lean Democratic as they were Republican, and were trained with materials from the nonpartisan GAB. "The DOJ has been doing this for many years and has been doing it prior to A.G. Van Hollen's time in office," she said. "This has always been a nonpartisan effort."
Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.