Coffee Break Ballot, June 6: Current Trends In Voting Rights

Much of the buzz in the digital conversation on voting rights this morning is a holdover from yesterday’s hotly contested Wisconsin recall election. Supporters and activists on both sides are alleging fraud, suppression and misinformation for voters in Wisconsin.

We’ll discuss some Twitter trends on those issues later, but first — a roundup of what we’ve been discussing in the News21 newsroom this morning.

What We’ve Been Reading

League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote Announce Resumption of Voter Registration in Florida,” (LWV Florida / Rock the Vote Florida Press Release, 06/06)

Voter thwarted in Waukesha for lack of ID,” (Laurel Walker, 06/06, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Photo ID, please,” (Editorial, 06/06, New York Post)

Voting Hot Report, 1996-2010,” (Special Report, U.S. Census)

Statistics show voter fraud is a rare occurrence in Florida,” (Kathleen Haughney, 06/06, Orlando Sentinel)

Twitter Trends

We tweeted early and often last night, but there’s nothing like a busy day of elections to spike mentions of voting rights-related phrases on Twitter. Thanks in part to alleged improprieties in the Wisconsin recall election, users around the Web mentioned “voter fraud” more than 7,600 times and “voter ID” more than 3,500 times, according to

This morning, users have been tweeting and retweeting accusations of voter suppression, voter fraud and improper demands for voter ID in the aftermath of the Wisconsin election. (Note: Part of the state’s controversial voter ID law is suspended, pending a court review.)

For more of what we’re reading and where we’re reporting, be sure to follow @WhoCanVote.


Peter Mundt: Milwaukee voter offers father assistance

Peter Mundt: Milwaukee voter offers father assistance

Peter Mundt joined his father at the polls in Milwaukee Tuesday. Photo by Tasha Khan/News21

Peter Mundt was helping his father complete a same-day registration form at Engleburg Elementary school in North Milwaukee when an election observer reported Mundt to the chief inspector.

The inspector asked why Mundt was helping his father; he explained that his father has difficulty reading and needed assistance.

The Wisconsin voter registration form allows assistance if those aiding voters provide a signature and address. Mundt signed the form, and his father was able to vote.

Mundt did not have a problem with the inspector’s question, he said.

“I was comfortable with it,” Mundt said. “I mean, they are there to do their job, to make sure the voting process is going correctly.”

By Tasha Khan, News21

Ruth Zubrensky: Wisconsin poll watcher finds no fraud

Ruth Zubrensky: Wisconsin poll watcher finds no fraud

Ruth Zubrensky was a poll watcher Tuesday at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Photo by Tasha Khan/News21

Ruth Zubrensky, 84, sat quietly Tuesday near the back of the polling place in Sandburg Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she watched voters cast their ballots.

Zubrensky has been an election observer a half-dozen times in Wisconsin, she said, and she has never seen any fraudulent activity at the polls.

“Fraud is such a minimum, such a minimum,” she said.

Zubrensky took voter protection training offered by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Unlike in many other states, Wisconsin observers are not required to register with a political party or a candidate. Observers must sign in with the senior election official and provide their name, address and organization, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board website.

By Tasha Khan, News21

Satra and Kenny Rembert: Milwaukee precinct mix up

Satra and Kenny Rembert: Milwaukee precinct mix up

Satra and Kenny Rembert had trouble locating their Milwaukee precinct Tuesday. Photo by Tasha Khan/News21

Satra and Kenny Rembert intended to vote for Mayor Tom Barrett Tuesday at Engleburg Elementary school in North Milwaukee, but were unable to vote at the precinct because they were registered in another district three blocks away.

The Remberts said they were casting their vote for the city of Milwaukee and for their children.

“Our kids are suffering as well as poor people in the city,” Satra Rembert said.

By Tasha Khan, News21

Milwaukee election observers earn mixed reviews

Gov. Scott Walker won by a comfortable margin Tuesday in Wisconsin’s recall election. The closely watched contest drew national attention, forecasts of a narrow race and predictions of a recount in balloting that highlighted the role of election observers.

Sometimes called poll watchers, election observers are associated with a candidate or a cause and are allowed to monitor polling activity. Observers Tuesday came from groups that included the League of Women Voters, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, We are Wisconsin, Wisconsin Jobs Now and True the Vote.

Jean McCoy-Garner, the top official at the Engleburg Elementary School polling location in north Milwaukee, said observers didn’t cause her many problems Tuesday.

“Sometimes I have to remind them of what they can and can’t do,” she said. “Ultimately they need to let people have the freedom to vote, and they can’t do certain things.”

Jamila Gatlin took exception with the official’s analysis, saying that she was offended by the three observers at the school.

“That’s pretty harassing if you ask me,” Gatlin said after she voted and left the school. “Why do we have to be watched while we vote? Do they go watch people vote in their areas?”

Gatlin was bothered by the fact that all the observers were white, she said, and they were dispatched to a predominantly African-American polling place. It didn’t matter, she said, that two of them were from organizations described as conservative and one was from a liberal group.

By AJ Vicens, News21

CNN, NBC News project Gov. Scott Walker as recall winner

CNN and NBC News have projected Gov. Scott Walker as the winner in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett needed a strong showing in Madison and Milwaukee, but Walker outperformed Barrett in rural and suburban districts. Democrats made a final push to turn out the vote in urban centers, but could not compensate for Walker gains elsewhere.

For additional election night coverage and analysis, follow @AJVicens and @Khantasha, as well as @WhoCanVote.

Early exit polls indicate high union turnout in Wisconsin

Union households could make up about one-third of the voters in Tuesday’s recall election, according to the Washington Post, and if that figure holds up, it would be the best showing for unions in Wisconsin in eight years.

Gov. Scott Walker led the effort to limit the collective bargaining rights of union workers last fall, and public worker unions have pushed back, with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporting eight out of 10 voters Tuesday either strongly approve or strongly disapprove of the way Walker addressed the issue.

Polls suggest Walker still has the edge, according the Post, but if union turnout, as well as increased day-of registration in Madison and Milwaukee, bolsters support for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democrat could close the gap.

By Annelise Russell, News21

Wisconsin Recall: Midway Update

Voting in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial recall election is underway and the polls will remain open until 8 p.m. CDT, but here’s a quick look at trends at the polls this morning:


Wisconsin voter law could limit student vote

Ellie Ganz, a 19-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin, said she’s not very political, but protests and commotion near the school’s Madison campus last fall were hard to ignore.

Ganz and other students had a front-row seat to the state capital protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to limit collective bargaining rights for public employees. Some students, however, might not be able to participate in the election Tuesday.

Wisconsin’s voter ID provision is on hold, but not all of the law. A judge has suspended the requirement that voters show ID at the polls, but a 28-day residency requirement — an increase from the previous 10-day rule — remains in effect.

Voters must reside in an “election ward for at least 28 consecutive days and have no present intent to move,” according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB). The board released a memorandum May 17 informing students of the changes to the election law residency requirement.

The requirement might keep students away from the polls, said Mike Browne, the deputy director of the liberal-leaning non-profit One Wisconsin Now.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how that younger vote turns out,” Browne said. “Because they’re not massed in the same kind of densities like they are in a normal November election, and there’s been the change in law that is going to make it more difficult for them to vote in this election.”

By Tasha Khan and AJ Vicens, News21

What if Wisconsin recall comes down to a recount?

Polling places in the Wisconsin recall election between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will open at 7 a.m. CDT Tuesday, but a narrowing race could leave candidates waiting months for results.

Recent public opinion polls by Angus Reid and Public Policy Polling indicate a tightening race. Reid has Walker ahead by six points, 53 percent to 47 percent. PPP gives Walker a three-point advantage, 50-47 percent.

A narrow margin of victory for either candidate could prompt a recount, although in Wisconsin there is no automatic trigger. Candidates may request that votes be tallied again. Elections decided by less than a .5 percent margin can be recounted at no cost to the candidate, according to Wisconsin law.  If the margin of victory is more than .5 percent and less than 2 percent, candidates are required to pay $5 for every ward they request a recount.

If the election is decided by more than 2 percent, candidates who petition for a recount must assume all costs.

Within five days of a complete recount, candidates dissatisfied with the results may then appeal to circuit court and, eventually, appeals court, likely postponing certifying a winner for months.

By Annelise Russell, News21