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Voter Suppression and polling place irregularities hit Milwaukee 

by guest columnist Les Nakamoto

On October 13th an article ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which outlined the potential problem of not having enough ballots printed for the precincts in Milwaukee County. In that article, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, cited vote-fraud concerns behind his reason for balking at the request from Mayor Tom Barrett for an additional 260,000 ballots (in anticipation of high turnout for the Nov. 2nd Presidential election). This was in spite of the fact that the high voter turnout would obviously require more ballots and the fact that Walker had only agreed to print about 1600 ballots per ward, plus extras for wards where a heavy turnout was expected, when two years ago the county printed about 2,000 ballots per ward and in the 2000 presidential election it was 1700 per ward. 

I was a volunteer for Election Protection in Milwaukee County and spent most of election day at one of the precincts for two wards. The lines at that precinct were long throughout the day. Most of the time the average wait ran 1 hour to 2 hours. Many people came back two or three times because the lines were so long. Most of the people showing up were voting for just ONE of the wards, the other ward had very little turnout. Many of the people voting there had voted there for 10-16 years, and had voted in the primary elections this year, yet had had their names STRICKEN from the Voter Registration LIST, so they had to re-register. Many of the people who had voted there for years didnít realize that REDISTRICTING had occurred recently, and that the new polling locations had not been publicized until only a few weeks prior to the general election. The new reference books for poll workers to tell people where to vote had not been printed until two weeks prior to the general election. People who lived across the street from this polling location had to go elsewhere to vote. Many of them had not been told ahead of time that their polling location had been changed, and many had had to stand in line for hours at multiple polling locations before they had been told that they were at the wrong polling place. Many people showed up at the wrong polling places because they were called by phone or given flyers with the wrong polling locations and then when they got to the wrong polling locations, were REDIRECTED to wrong polling locations AGAIN, sometimes SEVERAL TIMES. There were reports of this happening at many of the polling areas that were HEAVILY  DEMOCRATIC. 

Throughout the Milwaukee County area, many of the precincts were understaffed with poll workers. At our location, half of the poll workers who volunteered to work that day not only DIDNíT SHOW UP, but didnít bother to call in to tell anyone that they were not going to be there. I heard from the Chief Elections Inspector at that precinct that he had heard that many precincts had run into that same problem all around Milwaukee County. I asked him if there were any other volunteer poll workers who were available or on call to help out or could be called in to relieve the poll workers who were staffing the overburdened precincts. He responded that he had been told that NO additional poll workers were available. Yet in conversations with the Election Protection coordinator and an AFL-CIO representative, after the election, I was told that Lisa Artisanís volunteer coordinator and staff had assured poll volunteers that they were fully staffed and DIDNíT NEED THEIR HELP, and even when the volunteers asked to be placed on a call list in case they were needed on election day, THEY WERE NEVER CALLED. This was a system wide problem, and was predominantly occurring in black neighborhoods which voted HEAVILY DEMOCRATIC. That tells me that there was a CONCERTED effort to UNDERSTAFF the Democratic precincts and make sure that reserve workers WOULD NOT be called up.

We had record turnout at our location, and there werenít enough workers to handle the registration of new voters, to deal with absentee voter ballots, to handle the paperwork required throughout the day, or to supervise the placing of the ballots into the ONE optical scanning counter that was available at that precinct. At one point, in the evening, the optical scanning box jammed because there were too may ballots in the machine. The Chief Elections Inspector stated to us that he had never seen anything like this in all his years as a poll inspector. Voters had to wait for over an additional half an hour as the ballots were removed from the box, so that new ballots could be scanned and counted. They had never had to remove ballots from the voting machine before, because they had never had such high turnout at this precinct. We ended up having to order MORE BALLOTS because we had only been provided 2000, and it took over 3 HOURS to get more ballots even though the Chief Elections Inspector had called several times for more ballots. Many times throughout the day, he had attempted to call in to the central office, but the lines were JAMMED. Several hundred ballots had been ruined and were rejected by the scanner because of the voter voting straight party, and then voting for an individual for a particular office, who had a different party affiliation than the party that the voter had chosen for the straight party vote. Had we not ordered the ballots in advance and kept calling for more ballots, we would have run out and been several hundred ballots SHORT for ONE WARD. If Scott Walker had not been pressured to print more ballots and provide more for each of the precincts, we would have been 500-600 ballots SHORT for just OUR precinct. Multiply that by 312 wards in the city of Milwaukee alone, then multiply that by cities and counties and states across the country where this has taken place, and you will understand the impact that this tactic has had across the country, and understand why people had to wait in line for 10-11 HOURS in OHIO. How many people decided NOT TO VOTE because of the long waits? How many people COULD NOT WAIT 10-11 hours because they had to work at a job where they would be FIRED if they were late? Then ask yourself why it is, that there is not more OUTRAGE on the part of the Mass Media which is supposed to be the government watchdog, watching out for ALL of our RIGHTS. Ask yourself, why everyone who is interested in the rights of ALL Americans to vote isnít doing everything in their power to MAKE SURE THAT EVERYONEíS VOTE COUNTS. You will come to realize that those who ARENíT speaking out, or are making excuses for this, are for the most part REPUBLICANS who were either covering up the effort or behind the effort to PREVENT AMERICANS from exercising their right to vote across this country.

Les Nakamoto lives in Ozaukee County in Wisconsin

"I distrust who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

Susan B. Anthony


"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

George Orwell


ďI have sworn eternal enmity before the altar of Almighty God, against all forms of tyranny over the mind of man"

Thomas Jefferson


"I have always been on the side of the heretics against those who burned them because the heretics so often turned out to be right.  Dead, but right. "

Edward R. Murrow

"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends a tiny ripple of hope. Crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these simple ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Robert Kennedy


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Theodore Roosevelt

"A Democracy will vote away its rights. "

Benjamin Franklin


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