Lawmakers to DOJ: Stop Voter Confusion and Vigilantism

WASHINGTON, DC -- In response to concerns over voter confusion and potential vigilantism in the upcoming Wisconsin election, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) wrote the following letter to the Department of Justice requesting resources and election monitors:
Dear Attorney General Holder and Acting Assistant Attorney General Gupta,
As you know, there have been several major changes in the past month regarding Wisconsin’s voter ID law (Act 23). Many election officials and voters have expressed confusion about the state of the voter ID requirements, and we are extremely concerned that Wisconsinites may be unfairly denied the right to cast their ballots. We write this letter to request election monitors and any other resources the Department of Justice can provide to oversee the elections in Wisconsin, especially in light of calls for individuals to challenge eligible voters at the polls.   
In April of this year, Judge Adelman, a U.S. District Court judge, enjoined Act 23, finding that 300,000 Wisconsinites likely lacked the proper form of identification needed and that the law disproportionately burdened African Americans and Latinos. Despite these concerning findings, the United States Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit recklessly lifted Judge Adelman’s injunction on September 12th.  Subsequently, the Government Accountability Board (GAB) announced that Act 23 would be enforced for the first time since March of 2012, with a little over a month and a half before the elections. The United States Supreme Court has since granted an emergency request to stay the Seventh Circuit’s decision, effectively eliminating the voter ID requirements for the November 4th election. 
While we are pleased the Court decided to temporarily block this onerous law, we are concerned that widespread confusion regarding the law prevails. The decision to block this law came after a critical period where the Government Accountability Board (GAB) and others within the state informed voters of the new requirements. Immediately following the Seventh Circuit’s ruling to lift the injunction on the voter ID law, the Government Accountability Board revealed that over 11,000 absentee voters had already received absentee ballots without voter ID instructions, and that extraordinary efforts would be undertaken to inform these voters of a new requirement that a photocopy of identification would be required before their ballot was counted. Throughout this string of federal court actions, many of these voters and other Wisconsinites have likely received conflicting information about the election requirements. Going forward, it is imperative that the Department of Justice help to ensure that clear and accurate information is disseminated from now until Election Day.
Additionally, we are deeply concerned about a news report that Milwaukee County Election Commissioner Rick Baas recently urged a crowd of volunteers to exercise vigilantism for voter fraud and challenge voters who are suspected of improperly voting. As you know, there is scant evidence that in-person voter fraud exists in Wisconsin or throughout the country. Such in-person challenges are likely to be used improperly, and they would dissuade voters from exercising their right to vote. Simply stated, intimidation at our polls is unacceptable and we must do everything in our power to ensure unfettered access to the polls. We ask that the Department of Justice monitor and document any such cases and take any necessary actions.
Thank you for your commitment to voting rights in the state of Wisconsin, and I hope we can work together to ensure a fair and transparent election.
Gwen Moore
Tammy Baldwin
Mark Pocan
Ron Kind
CC:  Chris Herren, Chief, Voting Section, Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice
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