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Other reports good, poll turnout said very high...
By Brad Friedman on 8/9/2011 6:17pm PT  

[8/10/11: Now UPDATED with statement from the WI Government Accountability Board concerning the problem for Exit Pollsters in Waukesha County yesterday. See bottom of article for statement.]

The polls in Wisconsin closed moments ago. So far, so good in the state's unprecedented recall elections today, at least according to the bulk of media reports throughout the day. Turnout was reportedly very high, nearing or even exceeding rates from the 2008 Presidential election in some areas. "It's astronomically high," according to Matt Rothschild, Editor of The Progressive in Madison, WI, with whom I was just on air with on Santa Fe Public Radio's KSFR to discuss today's recalls.

The contests in six state Senate districts could mean removal from office for the GOP Senators facing recall today following their support of Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union agenda. If Democrats take three of those seats --- and hold onto the two Democrat seats up for recall next Tuesday, they would retake the majority in the Senate. The Assembly, the Senate and the Governor's office all went to Republicans in last November's wave election.

While reports of problems with electronic voting systems frequently don't come to light until after polls close --- sometimes days and even weeks later --- we've heard of very few problems so far at least. With most of the voters in the state today voting on hand-marked paper ballots, voters shouldn't get held up by malfunctioning machines. Even in cases where the op-scanners fail to work --- and that has been the case, reportedly, in at least one ward in Fond du Lac --- voters can vote and their ballots can be tallied later by a different computer.

That WI doesn't bother to check any of the op-scanned ballots by hand to assure the machines are tallying them correctly is a different problem entirely, but one we discussed in our item earlier today and, depending on what results look like tonight, may need to discuss again later.

But so far, so good today, as far we can tell, except for yet another problem with Exit Pollsters --- an echo of similar problems that occurred during the July primaries --- where again today they were blocked from doing their work at a polling place in Butler Village...in Waukesha County...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




By Brad Friedman on 8/9/2011 5:05am PT  

This is it. The citizens of Wisconsin respond to Governor Scott Walker's anti-union agenda today at the polling place with six Republican state Senators facing unprecedented recall elections all on the same day.

If Democrats succeed in winning three of today's races they will wrest control of the state Senate from the GOP in what is clearly being regarded by all sides as a referendum on Walker's radical agenda. (Democrats will also have to defend two seats of their own in two more recall elections next Tuesday.)

Yesterday, Public Policy Polling (PPP) came out with their final round of polls from over the weekend finding, in the four races surveyed, the Democrat with a healthy lead in one district, the Republican with a healthy lead in another, and two races too close to call either way, both statistical dead heats. PPP polled the other two races back in June, finding the D leading in one and the R leading in the other. (Eric Kleefeld at TPM has a few additional numbers from alternate sources.)

According to the pre-election polls then, this thing is believed to be incredible tight all around. Some $40 million is being spent on these races (only $3.75 million was spent on the entire slate of 15 Senate seats and all 99 Assembly seats last November) and dirty tricks are likely to be flying. But the bottom line seems to be that nobody knows what might happen given the unprecedented nature of six recall elections happening at once --- in the middle of Summer. There is simply nothing to compare this to.

The one thing about which all pundits and partisans and partisan pundits seem to agree at this hour: It'll all about turnout.

That's almost true. In addition to turnout, it'll also come down to the electronic vote tabulators used across the Badger State. Most municipalities in WI allow voters to vote on hand-marked paper ballots, but most of those ballots will be tallied only by oft-failed, easily-manipulated computer op-scan systems. Additionally, to their shame, the state has absolutely no mechanism for post-election human examination of optically-scanned ballots to ensure the computers have tallied them accurately. Once the computers (made by Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia) report the supposed results, there is no double-checking of those computer tallies other than in the event of a recount...and readers of The BRAD BLOG know how well those go in the state of Wisconsin.

So we'll be watching as close as we can today, and hope that voters in WI will be doing the same, from the moment wards open at 7am CT through close at 8pm CT and then throughout the tallying of ballots after polls close inasmuch as they can. Photographs and video tapes of ballots bags and poll tapes at the wards at the end of the night will be a very good idea tonight at every polling place.

If you spot any problems or concerns you feel we should know about --- in the media or at the polls --- please feel free let us know. We'll do our best to keep an eye on comments today. In the meantime, we'll be praying for six blowouts...one way or another.

* * *
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Creator of 'United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, Inc.,' John Connors, is a long-time AFP affiliate, has history of deceptive campaigns...
By Brad Friedman on 8/8/2011 5:17pm PT  

On Saturday we posted an article detailing the similarities, and apparent coordination, in misleading "Absentee Ballot Application" mailers sent out to Democratic voters by both the David Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity - Wisconsin and a mysterious group calling themselves United Sportsmen of Wisconsin.

The Americans for Prosperity mailer, sent out in Wisconsin last week in advance of tomorrow's state Senate recall election of six Republican state Senators, included instructions that absentee ballots must be submitted by August 11th --- even though the election in question is actually tomorrow, August 9th.

The PO Box described as the "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center" on those mailers belonged to a Rightwing family group tied to the anti-abortion movement. A spokesperson for the group, as we reported, said that while they were part of a "coalition" with AFP, they claimed to have had no idea AFP was using their PO Box on the mailers until they started receiving them, and that they hadn't seen the mailer before it went out. For their part, AFP claimed the incorrect date was simply a "typo" in two districts where they had sent the mailings, and that "liberals" were making a "mountain out of a molehill" about it all. Late last week, however, in a followup mailing, the group admitted that it had gone out to "everyone" in all of the state Senate districts, rather than just the two where Democrats will face recall elections next week (as opposed to tomorrow's GOP recalls) and blamed the incorrect date on their printer.

The United Sportsmen of Wisconsin (USW) mailers, almost identical in form, font, content, and type-setting, as we showed, had no information about who had paid for the mailings on them, and instructed voters that they needed to return their absentee ballots to the elections clerk by August 4th --- even though ballots may be delivered to the Wisconsin election clerks as late as the close of polls on August 9th.

Since we ran our article over the weekend, which suggested, among other things, previously-undocumented coordination between AFP and USW, and since there was little information to be found about USW on the web, a number of readers have been digging in to try and figure out exactly who the so-called United Sporstmen of Wisconsin actually are, as have we.

And, whaddaya know, a bit of digging reveals that the group was very recently founded by one John W. Connors, a long-time staffer and director of Americans for Prosperity, a College Republican leader, and a rather prolific founder of a number of hard-right political front groups with a record of deception in recent Wisconsin elections...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Several RW groups cooperate on fraudulent recall scams
PLUS: Election Integrity volunteer needed in WI...
By Brad Friedman on 8/6/2011 7:35am PT  

No doubt by now you've heard of the deceptive absentee ballot applications mailed to Democrats in Wisconsin by David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, WI, as reported earlier this week by David Catanese at Politico.

As seen below, the mailer instructed recipients to return the application to the "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center" by August 11th, even though the recall elections for 6 Republicans is next Tuesday, August 9th...

The wrong date on the mailing, however, was not the only problem with it. The address where the application was to be submitted is also a problem, but one that is worse than has been widely reported so far, according to some digging from a Wisconsin activist and election integrity advocate.

Moreover, a comparison to another absentee ballot application mailer from a different, supposedly unrelated, Rightwing group, suggests a coordinated effort by a number of these groups to defraud and disenfranchise voters in Wisconsin in advance of the unprecedented state Senate recall elections to be held next Tuesday...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Says nonpartisan polling 'electioneering' because candidates' names appear on exit poll 'ballot'
UPDATED TWICE: G.A.B. responds, then corrects original response...
By Emily Levy on 7/13/2011 10:58am PT  

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:

GAB Shutting Down Non-Partisan Exit Polls in Wisconsin

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...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




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