Governor Tony Evers has flip-flopped again. He had been saying that Wisconsin shouldn’t change the April 7 election. Now, Governor Evers is looking to change the election in a way that would suppress the conservative vote. He wants to mail a ballot to every registered voter. There are many reasons that mailing a ballot to every registrant is problematic.
Governor Evers released a video on twitter:
My focus has been and will continue to be ensuring everyone has the opportunity to cast their ballot in the upcoming election. That’s why today I am calling on the Legislature to act to send an absentee ballot to every registered voter in Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/39rXpZVmfK
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) March 27, 2020
Evers stated: “I am asking the legislature to come together to take bipartisan action to ensure that every registered voter receives an absentee ballot to vote in the upcoming election.”
While this proposal might sound fair on the surface, it is a bad idea. First of all, Wisconsin voters do not have confidence that our voter rolls are accurate. Wisconsin made national headlines over roughly 209,000 voter registrations, which were ordered to be purged from the voter rolls according to state law. Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge Paul Malloy had ruled in late 2019 that those who did not answer a mailed notice from the election commission in October 2019, should be removed from the list. Judge Malloy’s order was put on hold by an Appeals Court and is stuck in ongoing litigation. So those 209,000 names are still on the voter rolls, contrary to state law. This list is just one example of how the voter rolls have not been regularly updated.
Additionally, there are logistical problems of voters who have died and students who may have voted from their student residence. My neighbor recently passed away, but he is likely still on the voter rolls (removing dead voters from the rolls is a lengthy process). Unless there is a system that would remove him from the list prior to mailing ballots, he would be mailed a ballot to his address. There is a risk that another neighbor could watch for his mail and cast his ballot illegally. With college students being sent home from their campus residences, their ballots would likely be mailed to the dorm room addresses and possibly be re-routed to other states.
Conservative voters are more likely to vote in the traditional way: showing up to the polls on election day. American Majority Action, Inc. has been pushing absentee ballot requests to conservative voters (we have texted and called over 70,000 voters this week) and consistently encounter conservatives who are dead set on voting in person on election day. The mindset of many conservative voters is why red counties trail in requesting absentee ballots, according to the March 27 count from the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Dane County has requested 121,064 absentee ballots. Milwaukee County has requested 124,622 absentee ballots. Combined, these two counties make up 32% of the statewide requests. While red counties have made up some ground this week, they still trail. In the Spring 2019 election, Dane and Milwaukee counties combined to make up 25% of the total votes cast across the state.
Depriving voters the opportunity to show up on election day is a way of suppressing the conservative vote. As liberal US Senators have introduced legislation to require all-mail balloting at the federal level, election experts and election officials have warned that it “could bring widespread confusion or even disenfranchise voters.”We have already seen that Governor Evers’ actions have created mass confusion. Mailing every registrant a ballot would add even more chaos to the election.
Finally, we do not have enough time to make a sudden shift to all-mail balloting. There are numerous examples from across the country to learn from. Washington state took six years to transition to all-mail balloting. In Georgia, Gwinnett County rejected hundreds of absentee ballots because of voter confusion. Wisconsin has never had an election with a high percentage of absentee ballots being requested and mailed. Forcing local clerks to handle all of the ballots as absentees will create more confusion and be very lengthy.
Put simply, mailing every registered voter an absentee ballot is a very bad idea. While there are no easy solutions to the challenges of voting during the coronavirus pandemic, Evers’ proposal is one that should be rejected outright. This all-mail program would jeopardize Wisconsin’s election integrity and suppress the conservative vote. The rush to a completely new system would create more problems than it is addressing. Legislators should reject Evers’ half-baked idea.
Matt Batzel is the National Executive Director of American Majority Action, Inc.