Election Reforms Worth a Look

Oops, it just happened again. Yet again this week anyone tethered to objective reality got more proof — as if it were necessary — that our elections are free, fair and accurate.

The Associated Press, about as objective a news source as exists these days, conducted an exhaustive investigation into all the claims of voter fraud in the six states, including Wisconsin, in which Donald Trump disputed the results. And guess what? (You can do a drum roll here if you want.) They found 475 cases of potential fraud… out of 25.5 million votes. Let me express that graphically for you, as in:

25,500,000

475

This comes on top of a flurry of legal challenges from Trump (all dismissed, some by judges he appointed), and in Wisconsin, recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, and exhaustive reviews by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and by the ultra-conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. All of which found there was virtually zero fraud and certainly not nearly enough to change any outcome. Last week the conservative Heritage Foundation rated Wisconsin as having the eighth best election process in the country.

Nonetheless, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos continues to plunge ahead with the bogus and embarrassing “investigation” being conducted by former Supreme Justice Michael Gableman. Vos, who will waste more than $700,000 in taxpayer money on Gableman’s goofy antics, said last week that “we’ll never know” if Pres. Joe Biden was properly elected. That kind of undermining of the integrity of our elections by a smart guy who knows better is just beyond the pale.

It’s a perverse feedback loop. Three-quarters of Republicans question the results on Trump — but not on the Legislative and Congressional Republicans elected on the same ballot. Politicians like Vos play to them, which only deepens their groundless skepticism. That vicious cycle could be broken by a real leader, which Vos most certainly is not.

Which brings me to two issues I’d rather not bring up. I’d rather not mention them because I’m repulsed by the idea that I would agree with anything Vos or his minions have to say about elections. But (and my stomach turns as I write) there are two things that I think are worth exploring.

The first is the idea of uniform rules across the state. It does, in fact, seem wrong on its face that voters have different opportunities to vote across counties and municipalities. So, I do think it makes sense to make the most significant rules the same everywhere — the period for early voting and conditions of early voting (where and how you can do it) probably being the most important. (I’m actually even more conservative on this. I think we should go back to having elections on election day, but that’s just not going to happen.) Republicans may be pushing for uniform rules through a state constitutional amendment, which doesn’t require the governor’s approval. We need to have a close look at what they propose, but in principle it seems to make sense.

The second thing that concerns me is grants to help run elections from private entities. The Republicans are making a big deal out of money that came into the state from Mark Zuckerberg’s Center for Technology and Civic Life. But there is nothing illegal about it and, in fact, the Center didn’t deny any application. The money went out to 214 municipalities in Wisconsin, some of which voted heavily for Trump.

Still, it doesn’t have a great feel about it. Imagine, for example, if the very same kind of organization had made the very same grants to the very same local governments. But now imagine that the Koch Brothers organization was behind it. See what I mean?

What if Chas. Koch was behind the Center for Tech & Civic Life?

While there was no evidence at all for abuse in this case, the potential is there. And the source of the money certainly can taint the public perception regardless of how the money is used and deployed.

Look, folks, there’s no doubt that Republicans, like Vos, want uniform rules so that they can make those rules as tight as possible and there’s no doubt that what they don’t like about Zuckerberg’s money is that it probably wound up disproportionately helping in parts of the state that were rich in Democratic votes. It’s not like these guys are well-motivated.

Yet, on the merits of the case, they seem to be right. And, despite the Republicans’ best efforts, the overall trend is to make it easier to vote. We’ll never go back to one-day voting and we’ll never eliminate drop boxes, two things that were unheard of just a few election cycles ago. But we would be better off with uniform statewide rules and without private money used in the administration of elections.

Despite that, Gableman’s still a clown.

Welcome to the 303rd day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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