Guest blogged by Emily Levy
Two national election integrity organizations jointly conducted exit polling at a pair of poll sites yesterday, during round one of Wisconsin's recall elections. Election Defense Alliance (EDA) and Protect California Ballots teamed up with local activists to poll voters as they exited from voting in now-infamous Waukesha County, with the goal of checking the accuracy of the official election results.
According to a press release (see below) issued yesterday by EDA, despite local volunteer pollsters being equipped with copies of regulations from Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), the state's top election authority, and a letter from the agency's Executive Director outlining permission for exit polling, the rules were apparently changed during the day and pollsters forbidden to hand out the exit polling 'ballot' voters were asked to complete anonymously.
EDA National Chairperson Sally Castleman told The BRAD BLOG, "The numerous red flags that came to light in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election this spring alerted many Wisconsinites to the need for citizen oversight in their elections. With official vote counts being conducted secretly inside computers, exit polling is one of the very, very few mechanisms left to the public for assessing the legitimacy of official outcomes." Castleman added, "We need to see this level of public participation all over the nation in order to halt the privatization of our elections."
Full text of press release:
The Wisconsin Government Accounting Board (GAB), apparently changing their regulations as they go along, has effectively shut down citizen-run exit polls in today’s Democratic Primary Recall Election in Wisconsin.
Despite having the GAB Regulations (§§5.35 (5), 7.37 (2) ) in hand plus a letter from Kevin Kennedy, head of the GAB, both clearly allowing exit polling, the GAB today through GAB member David Buerger, has said that the group is “electioneering” because candidates names appear on the polling “ballot.” He further dictated that no voter would be allowed to touch an exit poll ballot, that pollsters can only verbally ask the voters their responses. This despite the fact that Edison-Mitofsky, the polling company commissioned by the Media Consortium to conduct Exit Polling nationally over the last many years, uses written polling ballots that the voters fill in themselves.
The polls were being run by concerned Wisconsin citizens volunteering under the guidance of Election Defense Alliance and Protect California Ballots, two non-partisan organizations with the mission of restoring transparency to our elections. Both organizations have run non-partisan exit polls many times in the past in close to a dozen states. Neither group has ever been harassed in such a way before.
“This is reasoning beyond specious”, said Jonathan Simon, Director of Election Defense Alliance. “Exit polling in this country has been going on for decades. To call it ‘electioneering’ simply because candidates names appear on the poll ballot, when all names appear without any advocacy involved, is absurd. This is concealment in OUR elections. Public participation is being forbidden!”
“If exit polling has now conveniently been relabeled as ‘electioneering’ this spells the end of exit polling in America and one of the last few mechanisms for evaluating the legitimacy of official vote counts,” added Sally Castleman, National Chairperson of Election Defense Alliance.
“The implications for upcoming primary and general recall elections are of the utmost importance” said Simon. “This encroachment on the public right of observation and participation must be challenged forcefully and immediately.”
“The irony of ‘Government Accountability’ is beyond belief,” Simon added.
Despite the fact that the law says a photo ID is requested but not required for this election, reports have been received from Glendale that voters are not being allowed to vote without photo ID.
In another related story, robo-calls, reportedly coming from Virginia, are being made to Democrats throughout the primary districts today telling them not to vote today because an absentee ballot is in the mail.
See Eric Kleefeld's coverage at TalkingPointsMemo for background on the WI recall elections and the announced outcome of yesterday's Democratic primary recall elections. Round two of the recalls will be held next Tuesday, July 19, when two more primaries and one general recall election (two Republican primaries, and one Democratic state Senator facing a recall) will be held.
UPDATE 7/15/11: Reid Magney, spokesperson for Wisconsin's G.A.B., wanted to offer the board's point of view on their ruling which effectively shut down the EDA's exit polling by forcing pollsters to move outside of the 100 ft. zone around the polling place, as the group noted in their press release posted above. His response follows in full below, along with EDA's response to Magney's remarks...