Reports of Voter Suppression in Wisconsin--Robocalls Targeting Recall Petition Signers

 It's to be expected, of course--an election as important as the recall of Scott Walker in Wisconsin today will have some dirty tricks happening. 

But this one's especially nasty. Tom Barrett's campaign announced that there's been a wave of robocalls targeting the people who signed the petition to recall Walker, telling them they've already voted by signing the petition and should stay home on Tuesday. (Over a million people signed the recall petitions.)

Josh Eidelson reported: 

Last night I talked to a Wisconsin voter who says she received just such a robo-call. Carol Gibbons told me she picked up the phone and heard a male voice saying “thank you for taking this call,” and that “if you signed the recall petition, you did not have to vote because that would be your vote.” After hearing the vote-suppressing message, said Gibbons, “I wanted to take the phone and throw it in the middle of the road.” Gibbons is a retired public employee and a staunch Walker opponent. If he wins the recall, she warned, “He’s going to roll over us like pieces of dirt. He’s going to say, ‘They voted for me twice – I can do whatever I want.’” 

Activists in Wisconsin have been expecting voter suppression efforts, but this is still a jarring tactic--going straight after what one would assume are the safest voters for recall. Kevin Pape of Working America commented to AlterNet that the original recall petitions became public record once they were submitted to the state. "It's good for our side to know who these voters are, to know they're strong supporters, but it's also advantageous for the other side," he said. 

Just to be clear: voters who signed recall petitions still have to vote in the election to be counted. The Barrett campaign did an emergency round of fundraising to call all the petition signers (again, over one million Wisconsinites) to remind them that they have to vote, and voters can report irregularities or suppression efforts at Defend Wisconsin.

(As an aside, this is possibly the kind of thing we can expect a lot more of in the age of unlimited independent campaign expenditures, which are legally required not to coordinate with candidates. Outside groups can spend money on misinformation campaigns and the candidates can keep their hands clean.)

Update: A Walker spokesperson has not denied the existence of the calls, but, as expected, denied anything to do with them. 

As noted in the GOP primaries in Wisconsin, the state's "do-not-call" list exempts "electioneering" calls, so voters can continue to be inundated with robocalls.

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at June 5, 2012, 3:28am