Recounts vs. Voter ID: Why Is Democracy So Damn Expensive?

The vote recount for the Supreme Court race between incumbent Justice Prosser and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg is nearly over. The recount has been completed in 71 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. Only Waukesha County is still methodically performing their hand count and has only managed to recount about one third of the ballots cast in the county for this race. The GAB originally required the recounts to be completed by today, May 9th, but a Dane County judge gave Waukesha County an extension through May 26th. Waukesha County is using a more rigid recount format than the other counties per an article in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Immediately after the April 5th General Election the right was very concerned about perceived voter irregularities in Dane and Milwaukee counties. At that point AAG Kloppenburg held a slim 204 vote lead. Everyone knew a recount was going to occur.

Then we had the Miracle of Waukesha County and counted but unreported ballots from the City of Brookfield saw the light of day. Thursday to be exact…two days after the election…and now Justice Prosser had a 7,316 vote lead, a margin of 0.48% of the total statewide vote. And now the left cries foul but during the post-election canvass it appears that the Waukesha County Clerk is inept and possibly negligent but not fraudulent. And as we know the state has made provisions for free recounts if the margin is less than 0.5% and of course AAG Kloppenburg’s campaign exercise there right and request a recount. The two campaigns negotiate on the method and breadth of the recount and it gets underway.

And once again the right screams because the recount is going to cost a lot of money and we are broke. Recounts have never changed an election outcome by more than a thousand votes so this is a waste of time and money. How dare AAG Kloppenburg be so greedy and selfish! Well we haven’t seen the real dollars and cents cost yet, but it very likely will exceed $1 million and may reach $2 million, which the right says we can ill afford. Well I have said it here and a number of other places. Democracy is messy. Democracy is expensive. And this time we need to spend the money and the time.

Will this recount change the outcome of the race? Not likely. But if we can put to rest the doubts about Dane County or Milwaukee County or Waukesha County it will be money well spent. And as we’ve seen a number of times this past week some local governmental authorities don’t necessarily follow procedure to the letter and questions have arisen during the recount process. Well here’s a good chance for everyone to examine their procedures. Here’s a good place for the GAB to reiterate and retrain on how to run an election effectively and legally. And maybe we can head off future issues, because it looks to me that the real threat of voter fraud isn’t the rogue single voter in the booth but the election official who isn’t being held properly accountable.

But here in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race we actually had a measurable margin that could be acted upon, 0.48%.

Then we get to Voter ID. The legislature is considering a bill this week that was reworked and approved today by the Joint Finance committee (the MJS article is here). This has been pointed out by many opponents, me included, as a solution looking for a problem. Our Attorney General J B Van Hollen spent considerable resources reviewing voter records in 2008 and I believe came up with under 30 instances of voter fraud out of 2,983,000 votes cast in the 2008 Presidential General Election. Using the 30 instances, the percent of vote fraud comes to 0.001%. Most of these cases were felons still on parole and probation who didn’t realize they weren’t yet allowed to vote. I believe there was an issue with someone who voted via absentee ballot and in person and a couple who had recently moved and voted at both their old address and their new address. These last two are the most egregious and were obvious conscious efforts to cast fraudulent ballots.

Now the Voter ID bill has been changed a number of times (the last version was discussed in MJS here on April 26th). It will require a registered voter to produce a valid picture id in order to cast a ballot. You can read the latest details here and I won’t go over every detail in this blog (if you are a glutton for punishment here’s one more).

So let’s go back to the voter fraud cases that the AG identified…felons not yet legally eligible to vote. Will a picture ID prevent them from voting? No. Someone who submitted an absentee ballot and shows up to vote in person, will a picture ID prevent them from casting a fraudulent ballot? No. What about the couple who voted at two polling places via two addresses? Will a picture ID prevent their illegal activity? No. Other mechanisms might but in every one of these cases a photo ID would prove they were in fact the people they claim to be and if on the voter rolls would be allowed to vote.

Now the biggest issue from the right on the recount is the cost to the tax payer because after all we are broke. From the April 26th MJS article, the ANNUAL cost to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be $2.7 million. And state election officials believe they will need $2.1 million dollars the first year to bring their computer systems up to speed. Nearly $5 million dollars for a problem that doesn’t exist and we haven’t even addressed the unfunded mandates to the municipalities who actually have to run the elections and enforce inspections of valid IDs and maintain the voter logs that every voter will be required to sign. Today’s MJS article says the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau thinks Voter ID will cost the state $6 million over the next two years.

So putting the minds of voters on the left and right at ease over the legitimacy of the Supreme Court race after both sides raised concerns isn’t worth $1.5 million but solving a problem that doesn’t exist for $5 million is reasonable? Really?

I won’t go into voter suppression in this blog…that’s another topic…but the linked articles will hit the high points if you want to start contemplating that conundrum in the privacy of you own home!

FWIW: Here’s an excerpt for the April 26th article on the voter fraud that was prosecuted in Wisconsin after the 2008 election:

A photo ID requirement could prevent voting in someone else’s name, but not the most common form of voter fraud – felons voting while on state supervision. The state Department of Justice and Milwaukee County district attorney’s office have prosecuted 20 cases of voter fraud from the November 2008 election. Eleven were cases of felons voting, six were cases of special registration deputies improperly registering people, two were cases of double voting, and one was a case of a husband obtaining an absentee ballot in the name of his deceased wife.


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2 thoughts on “Recounts vs. Voter ID: Why Is Democracy So Damn Expensive?

  1. Republicans legislate licking their fingers, smacking their jowls satiated on malfeasance

  2. Seems odd Waukesha is last again. Why are they using a different standard than the other counties anyway? Are the other counties less stringent in making sure every vote counts?

    I still don’t trust what is going on. The Governor was going to plant people to cause trouble at protest. There just seems to be something fishy going on in the highest level of WI government.

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