Voter Suppression in Wisconsin

It used to be that if you wanted to do voter registration in Wisconsin you could get trained by the Government Accountability Board as a Special Registration Deputy(SRD), be assigned an SRD number, and then travel anywhere in Wisconsin to register voters. Not anymore.

The Voter Photo ID law stripped the GAB of any authority to train SRD’s and leaves it  in the hands of town and municipal clerks who, as a by product of the law, now have sole authority on these matters.

Some town and municipal clerks are very accommodating, such as Donna Austad in the city of Eau Claire, and Town of Washington Clerk Janelle Henning. Ms. Austad agreed to do an SRD training several weeks ago for roughly 25 of us who intend to canvass low income neighborhoods regarding the Badgercare expansion and minimum wage referendum questions on the Eau Claire County November ballot, and Ms. Henning agreed to honor that training and appointed ten of us as SRD’s in her township. But not every clerk is cooperative.

Meet Deb Grinde, Town of Brunswick clerk. Ms. Grinde has unilaterally decided that not only will she not honor our training from the City of Eau Claire, which borders the Town of Brunswick, she’s not going to appoint any SRD’s, period. So a town or municipal clerk now has the authority to stop dead in its tracks any voter registration drive that any organization or group of concerned citizens may want to mount in that jurisdiction.

When I pressed Ms. Grinde for a rationale behind her refusal to appoint any of us as SRD’s, she said she felt that voter registration information was already well publicized in the Town of Brunswick, in spite of the fact that the town has no website and, I’m told by a resident there, no newsletter.

This is, in my view, the kind of voter suppression the GOP was after when they passed the Voter Photo ID bill, and I think it’s a goddamned disgrace.

So do me a favor and call Deb Grinde at 1-715-834-7307 and tell her what you think, or send her an email at And then contact your legislator and tell them we need to change the law so that if qualified Wisconsin voters want to register their friends and neighbors to vote, a town or municipal clerk can’t stand in the way.



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9 thoughts on “Voter Suppression in Wisconsin

  1. Steve, thanks. Excellent piece.

    I just sent her this email. It includes a link to your piece.

    Ms. Grinde, suppressing voter registration makes you appear lazy

    If that’s the case, please resign so we can find someone with a better work ethic. If that’s not the case, please do everything in your power to increase voter turnout. Yes, it’s more work for you, but it’s a sign of a healthy democracy.

    If you think your position has been misrepresented, or is misunderstood, I’d urge you to make that known in the comments at Blogging Blue. Unlike registering to vote, making a comment there only requires a valid email address.


    Steve, per your request, I’ll follow through with my local legislators.

    1. Thanks John. What’s particularly disturbing is that I made it very clear to Ms. Grinde in my first conversation with her that we wanted to register low income people in regards to the Badgercare expansion and minimum wage raise referendum questions that will appear on the November ballot throughout Eau Claire County.

  2. Disappointed to hear the situation there. Our county posts the entire amount of information, on line, that makes up the county supervisor’s meeting packets for all Board or Committee meetings in a pdf format approximately a week before any scheduled meeting. Agenda, prior meeting minutes, public correspondence, department expenditures, issue background and studies, etc., are all there to look at, except of course for personnel matters or other allowed closed sessions.

    Several towns in the county follow the same procedure, however, there are several municipal and town clerks whose jobs are directly the result of appointment by the currently elected town board and are possibly beholding to the makeup of the current board for keeping their job. These clerks can also act as gatekeeper to public information and access, might or might not charge you to have access to information depending on the wishes of someone like a town chairperson or a board of supervisors and no doubt (from my experience) inform their superiors of questions or problems coming through the office and of anyone they might see as making waves.

    As Town of Brunswick clerk, Ms Grinde could possibly be answering to the wishes of those responsible for allowing her to keep the job, if it is not an elected post. Not having a website to check ordinances there or hiring or appointments processes, such as the clerk, I’m leery to hop on the bandwagon, yet. Following the orders of one’s employer (the town or muni or individuals above you in authority) and not mentioning that control, despite the legal state authority and discretion to allow SDR’s in your case, would be helpful to understand.

    Not doubting your reportage, but I need a bit more info, and would then maybe be happy to oblige your request.

  3. NQ,

    I have no way of knowing for sure if Deb Grinde is acting on the wishes of her employer or not, but I suspect not. She was difficult in previous conversations with me when she’d of had no opportunity to consult her employer, and made the decision not to appoint any SRD’s after I challenged some of her reluctance to comply with our requests. If I had to offer an explanation for her decision it seems motivated more by pettiness and an overblown sense of power than any political leanings, which makes the offense equally egregious, in my view. If she wants to come on here and challenge anything I’ve written I’d welcome it. I have a witness to my final conversation with Grinde who can fully corroborate my end of the conversation.

    1. Thanks Steve,

      Thought this over some more and figured out a way to answer the questions which I posed above. Am willing to participate with your request. On it, so to speak.

      Best of luck with the, “grassroots,” work.

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