A controversial gubernatorial recall election was held this past Tuesday. Of the estimated 3.5 million registered voters in Wisconsin, nearly 2.5 million voted. However, there were several reports of voters receiving misleading voting information and confusion over new laws passed last year by the legislature. Given these reports, did every voter who wanted to vote get the chance to vote? And what can be done for future elections to make sure those that want to vote can vote?
There are reports of manipulative robo-calls that may have tricked voters to not vote. The robo-calls took place the night before the election and apparently attempted to deceive voters by telling them they did not have to vote if they signed the petition to recall Governor Walker. Confused voters then began to express their uncertainty via social networking sites to attempt to uncover the legitimacy of the calls. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, discussed the misleading robo-calls with MSNBC host, Ed Schultz, and said that his campaign was calling voters to provide them with the correct information.
Also reported on Tuesday, many college students were turned away from the polls because of confusion over a law passed last year by the Wisconsin legislature that may have limited voters who attend college outside of their home district. The law stipulates in order to register to vote, one must live in their current district for at least 28 days. Many colleges’ semesters don’t end until early to mid May. If a student returned home after May 8th they were barred from voting unless they voted absentee at school. There are thousands of students who attend Wisconsin colleges and universities in and out of state whose voices may not have been heard during the recall due the residency requirements.
It could have been worse. While this provision of the law remains in effect, Wisconsin judges earlier this year blocked the implementation of a photo ID requirement to vote, an obstacle to voting that would have disenfranchised thousands of Wisconsin voters.
There are steps Wisconsin’s leaders can take to continue to promote fair elections. In regards to the misleading calls, the state Attorney General should investigate and prosecute if any crimes were committed. The legislature should also consider a deceptive practices law that explicitly prohibits false statements about voting and election procedure. In regards to college students, the suppressive provision in last years’ law should be repealed and poll workers should be trained to implement the laws properly. By moving in this direction, it is possible that some day all eligible voters who want to vote can cast a ballot in Wisconsin.