Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump

Mother Jones,  October 19, 2017

You can’t say Andrea Anthony didn’t try. A 37-year-old African American woman with an infectious smile, Anthony had voted in every major election since she was 18. On November 8, 2016, she went to the Clinton Rose Senior Center, her polling site on the predominantly black north side of Milwaukee, to cast a ballot…

She’d lost her driver’s license a few days earlier, but she came prepared with an expired Wisconsin state ID and proof of residency. A poll worker confirmed she was registered to vote at her current address. But this was Wisconsin’s first major election that required voters—even those who were already registered—to present a current driver’s license, passport, or state or military ID to cast a ballot. Anthony couldn’t, and so she wasn’t able to vote.

There is, of course, no one thing that swung the election. Clinton’s failings, James Comey’s 11th-hour letter, Russian interference, fake news, sexism, racism, and a struggling economy in key swing states all contributed to Trump’s victory. We will never be able to assign exact proportions to all the factors at play. But a year later, interviews with voters, organizers, and election officials reveal that, in Wisconsin and beyond, voter suppression played a much larger role than is commonly understood.

Neil Albrecht, Milwaukee’s election director, believes that the voter ID law and other changes passed by the Republican Legislature contributed significantly to lower turnout. “I would estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement,” he said later. “It is very probable that between the photo ID law and the changes to voter registration, enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin.”

“The Wisconsin experience,” said US District Judge James Peterson, “demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities.”

-by Ari Berman

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