By Collin Roth
As the Senate District 21 recount continues to reveal serious errors and irregularities, greater scrutiny is being trained on the tactics and actions of left-wing groups operating in Racine during the lead-up to the June 5, recall election. One such organization that has garnered the most attention is the immigrants rights group Voces de la Frontera, a Milwaukee based group with a Racine chapter that operates out of the Racine Labor Center. Voces, and their student spin-off Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), conducted a controversial Get Out The Vote effort in urban Racine neighborhoods that involved hundreds of high school students canvassing during school hours with promises of volunteer credit, pizza, and t-shirts.
Joe Shansky, a spokesman for Voces, bragged at an Occupy event on June 6, that YES was able to activate 400 high school students to canvass neighborhoods in Racine. Jorge Maya of YES spoke at the same Occupy event and claimed the students reached 3,300 voters on election day.
Aaron Rodriguez blogging for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interviewed a student who detailed how YES was able to operate in one school in the Racine Unified School District. Rodriguez writes:
A student at Washington Park – who asked not to be named – said the school “made a big push” for students to join YES’ get-out-the-vote drive. As June 5th neared, the school’s PA system was “routinely used every class period” to remind students that YES needed more volunteers. The student remembers no such effort being made by the school in the 2010 elction to encourage student canvassing. I asked him why the change? He said, “After Act 10, teachers became more involved. Some of them wouldn’t teach and spent class time complaining about losing their jobs.”
The actions of YES and Voces during the recall were certainly not the first time the two groups have been active in the Racine area. Voces has consistently applied these same radical Alinskyite tactics during pervious election cycles and even protested the home of a State Senator after dark.
In 2004, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailed how Wisconsin Citizen Action in partnership with Voces practiced similar Get Out The Vote efforts involving school children during the presidential contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry. The efforts centered on Milwaukee, Madison, and Racine where children as young as 11 were missing class to go door-to-door and phone bank. According to the Journal Sentinel, Racine Horlick High School teacher Al Levie admitted to sending out 300 high school students with help from Voces on election day, identical to the Get Out The Vote tactics seen on June 5, 2012.
Also in 2004, two activists working for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) travelled from Michigan to Wisconsin to participate in Voces de la Frontera voter drives in Milwaukee and Racine due to their belief that Voces was registering illegal immigrants. The activists posed as undocumented workers and recorded their interactions with Voces volunteers who helped the pair register to vote. Prosecutors in Milwaukee and Racine recovered the voter registration cards but refused to prosecute.
In December 2005, Voces demonstrators surrounded the home of Republican State Senator Cathy Stepp after Stepp voted in favor of a bill that required those seeking a Wisconsin driver’s license to prove citizenship. According to Stepp, demonstrators were looking in her window and half a dozen cars were parked outside her home. The Racine County Sheriff was called to her home but after an investigation, the District Attorney decided not to prosecute the organization.
In 2008, Voces once again used high school students in Milwaukee and Racine to turn out the vote. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Voces was able to muster 550 high school students on election day in 2008 to assist Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
Since 2008, Voces activists in Racine and elsewhere adopted the tactic of sit-ins and disruptions, purposely trying to get arrested. In 2010, Voces Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz and Racine activists Maria Morales and Al Hutton were arrested for trespassing in Rep. Paul Ryan’s district office. Neumann-Ortiz and others were very publicly dragged out of a Joint Finance Committee hearing on the budget in June 2011 for disorderly conduct.
Voces de la Frontera is closely aligned with the labor movement and is currently organizing worker’s at Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee as they go on strike. Citizen Action of Wisconsin lists Voces as a coalition partner with Neumann-Ortiz sitting on the Board of Directors for the Milwaukee-based labor coalition.
By Collin Roth
With the canvass now completed in Racine County, Republican State Senator Van Wanggaard trails Democrat John Lehman by 824 votes in the hotly contested recall election in Senate District 21. The somewhat surprising result could afford Democrats their lone victory in this most recent recall season in Wisconsin, effectively flipping the majority in the Senate to a 17-16 Democrat majority.
But, Senator Wanggaard has yet to concede the race and there is serious talk of a recount.
But what actually happened in Senate District 21?
In a nutshell, Governor Walker outperformed Senator Van Wanggaard in 86% of Senate District 21′s wards and polling locations while John Lehman outperformed Tom Barrett in 82% of those same wards and polling locations. In the City of Racine, John Lehman earned 181 more votes than Tom Barrett and outperformed Barrett in 26/36 Racine wards. Similarly, Governor Scott Walker outperformed Senator Wanggaard in 29/36 Racine wards and earned 322 more votes than the incumbent state senator.
Outside of the city of Racine, the same thing occurred. Lehman outperformed Tom Barrett in 24/25 wards and polling locations earning 331 more votes than Barrett. Walker outperformed Wanggaard in 24/25 wards and polling locations and earned 707 more votes than Wanggaard.
The dichotomy in Senate District 21 is certainly interesting to note. Approximately 1,029 voters cast ballots for Governor Scott Walker and not Senator Van Wanggaard. And John Lehman earned 512 more votes than Tom Barrett. The latter result is of course most surprising.
But in the wake of the Senate District 21 recall election, questions about electioneering, fraud, and irregularities have percolated to the surface.
On Thursday, the MacIver Institute revealed that the Racine County Sheriff’s Department was initiating an investigation into documents found in a dumpster at the Cesar Chavez Community Center (the polling location for Racine wards 11,12, and 15). According to a source that MacIver talked to, the investigation pertains to pre-certified ballots, partially filled out election day registrations, and partisan political literature found in the dumpster.
In the days leading up to the June 5, recall election, Media Trackers documented an early voting event in Racine sponsored by the Racine Interfaith Coalition. The supposedly ‘non-partisan’ early voting breakfast featured free food, partisan signs, and free rides to the polls in vans that posted the names of Barrett, Mitchell, and Lehman in the windows.
On Breitbart.com, Rebel Pundit detailed how a union member threatened to “bang” an election observer’s “head against the floor,” how the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center (polling site for Racine wards 8,17,and 18) featured a mural of President Obama, and how a van driving voters to the polls clearly has the words “Cash Money” written on the windows.
In the days and weeks ahead, regardless of whether Senator Wanggaard concedes or not, the Senate District 21 election will remain under scrutiny.
By Collin Roth
In the wake of the seven point victory by Governor Walker in last week’s recall election, progressive activists and bloggers expressed frustration and dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party and it’s strategic decision to pursue the recall mechanism to try and depose Walker.
At the Netroots Nations conference in Rhode Island, Emily Mills of Dane 101 expressed frustration and disappointment that “the movement,” which Mills claims to have begun organically, “became much more polarized and partisan.” Mills went on to lament that “It became about elections. It became about parties. It became about one candidate that not everybody was enthusiastic about.”
Mills’ views earned her ridicule from official spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Graeme Zielinski via Twitter. Zielinski tweeted:
Expanding further on Mills’ theme, Andy Kroll of Mother Jones wrote that “The Walker recall effort would, in fact, splinter the masses of anti-Walker protesters.” Kroll explained:
By now, the Madison movement was the captive of ordinary Democratic politics in the state. After all, Barrett was hardly a candidate of the uprising. People who had protested in the streets and slept in the Capitol groused about his uninspired record on workers’ rights and public education. He never inspired or unified the movement that had made a recall possible—and it showed on Election Day: Walker beat Barrett by 7 percentage points, almost his exact margin of victory in 2010. Democrats and their union allies needed to win over new voters and old enemies; by all accounts they failed.
Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive magazine expressed his honest opinion in The Isthmus saying the recall results were a “whupping.” Rothschild lamented the fact that “the movement” is disintegrating and has been ever since “leaders (and who were they, exactly?) decided to pour everything into the Democratic Party channels rather than explore the full potential of the power that was latent but present in the streets back in February and March of 2011.”
Rothschild expressed his frustration at a lack of imagination and a “failure of nerve and a failure of process” to entertain “creative strategies.” The strategies Rothschild suggested include:
The Teamsters with their 18 wheelers, whose support was so emboldening, could have driven down Interstate 90 and 94 at 45 mph all day long for a week’s time to demonstrate that workers in Wisconsin weren’t going to take this lying down.
No coordinated workplace strategies were adopted.
Every union in the state could have caught the blue flu, so that workers in one trade after another would call in sick on alternating days.
Or unions could have told their members simply to “work to rule” — doing the bare minimum that their contracts required.
But none of these options were taken, and the only channel that all of the people’s energy was poured into was the very narrow and murky channel of the Democratic Party.
While such strategies and tactics may have garnered widespread attention, it is unlikely such actions would have resulted in anything but driving public opinion away from unions and their opposition to Act 10.
The broader point is that progressive activists feel stung and frustrated in the wake of the failed recall election. Their utopian “movement” of good feelings and solidarity was channeled into the run-of-the-mill sphere of electoral politics where Governor Walker was able to prevail in overwhelming fashion. John McCormack of the Weekly Standard showed that even if Dane and Milwaukee counties saw 100% turnout, Walker still would have won the recall election.
The last 16 months in Wisconsin have seen both a mobilization of progressive forces as well as a splintering. Progressives were able to organize mass demonstrations and gather recall signatures, but were unable to turn out voters in key elections. Moving forward, it will be interesting to observe how the left learns and responds to the recall experiment and failure.
By Collin Roth
On Tuesday night, the recall effort against Governor Walker was soundly defeated in a resounding 7-point victory by the sitting Republican governor. In addition to Governor Walker, Lt. Governor Kleefisch and three Republican State Senators also defeated Democratic challengers by large margins. But the lone victory for recall challengers appears to have occurred in Senate District 21 where Democrat John Lehman posted an 800 vote lead over Republican incumbent Van Wanggaard in Racine County.
Despite the lead, the election is likely headed for a recount and reports are trickling out of Racine of irregularities, electioneering, and outright fraud.
Nevertheless, the Obama team is calling the Lehman victory a “giant leap forward” in an email to supporters. Wisconsin Field Director Michelle Kleppe wrote:
Over the past year and a half, Wisconsinites have stepped up to be part of an incredible moment in our state’s history. We stood up to Governor Walker and the divisive politics he’s waged on Wisconsin.
While Tuesday’s outcome wasn’t all that we’d hoped for, we took a giant step forward by electing John Lehman and reclaiming the state Senate.
I hope you’re as proud as I am about the courage we’ve shown throughout this hard-fought campaign.
The irony of course is that even if John Lehman’s victory stands (which does appear likely), the Democrat majority in the Wisconsin State Senate is likely to remain temporary and new Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller may never preside over the Wisconsin State Senate.
Because there are no scheduled legislative sessions between Tuesday’s recall election and the November 2012 elections. And many expect Republicans to gain at least one, if not two, State Senate seats in the wake of redistricting and Democratic State Senator Jim Holperin’s retirement.
So much for the “giant leap forward.”
By Collin Roth
Governor Scott Walker’s 7 point victory on Tuesday effectively signaled to the rest of the country that the use of the recall might not be the most effective use of resources for Democrats, unions, and leftists. On Thursday, just two days after the Wisconsin recall election, the group known as Michigan Rising announced that they were suspending their campaign to recall Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan.
Michigan Rising published on their website:
There is no realistic scenario that would produce 1,000,000 signatures in the next 55 days to make the August 1 internal receipt deadline, preparing all petitions for turn-in on August 3 in Lansing. Even though the campaign is ramping up, we do not have any prospect of going immediately from 100 signatures a day to 18,000 a day. Any hopes of an energizing effect from Wisconsin’s recall election were dashed by the outcome of last night’s election.
Therefore, we should not continue the present campaign, with the impossible goal to put the Recall of Snyder on the November 6 ballot. However, we should look at our options, consult with county and city leaders, and move quickly to transform the program into what we can positively achieve.
The short lived effort to recall Governor Snyder kicked off just one month ago on May 5. According to MLive.com, both John Nichols of The Nation magazine and Democratic State Senator Lena Taylor attended the kick-off of the recall as the group attempted to “build on the energy and momentum” in Wisconsin.
Michigan Rising needed 800,000 signature to recall Governor Snyder. According to Michigan Rising, the group had only 2,079 signatures after one month of signature gathering. This was the second failed effort to recall the first-term governor of Michigan.
By Collin Roth
On Wednesday evening, a group of “Occupy” protesters “took it to the streets” in the wake of the overwhelming victory by Governor Scott Walker in the recall election on Tuesday. The group of around 50 protesters gathered in Pere Marquette park in downtown Milwaukee where speakers from the Liberty Tree Foundation, Progressive Democrats of America, Students For A Democratic Society, Voces de la Frontera, American Federation of Teachers, and AFSCME took the stage.
The rather bland speeches ended after thirty minutes or so and then the excitement began.
The group of protesters marched past Milwaukee City Hall, blocking traffic and periodically clashing with Milwaukee Police officers. The clashes resulted in four protesters arrested as demonstrators purposely marched towards police on horseback. The protesters weaved South through downtown Milwaukee before ending in Zeidler park, which appeared planned all along.
Protesters lobbed insults and profanity at the police during the entire march and ACLU legal observers were on hand to assist protesters who were arrested.
The march and clashes appeared highly orchestrated and organized despite the explanation of leaders that this was a “leaderless movement.”
By Collin Roth
On Monday, Tom Barrett’s campaign lashed out at a group of citizen election integrity monitors calling them part of a “voter suppression” plot. The Barrett campaign issued an email announcing that “Texas voter suppression experts arrive in Wisconsin” in reference to the arrival of a Tea Party group known as the King Street Patriots. Phil Walzak, Deputy Campaign Manager for the Tom Barrett campaign wrote:
The “King Street Patriots,” a group of Texas extremists, have arrived in Wisconsin. They believe that voter registration for the poor is “un-American,” and would “destroy the country.” They already came to Wisconsin once and intimidated recall petition signers — and now they’ve dropped so-called “election observers” into polling locations across the state.
The King Street Patriots, viciously maligned by the Barrett campaign, is the same organization that assisted and sponsored the Verify The Recall effort that brought transparency and accountability to the recall process. Verify The Recall assisted in the revelation of numerous journalists and judges who signed the recall and was essential in citizen journalists uncovering numerous examples of errors and fraud, most notably the case of Mark Demet who is being prosecuted by the Racine County District Attorney for forging the signatures of his brother, mother, and neighbors.
Walzak had no criticism for federal election monitors being sent in by the Department of Justice into Milwaukee for the recall election. Additionally, the Washington Times reported that Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod mentioned that there would be “an army of lawyers” in Wisconsin to “protect the vote.”
Wisconsinites are voting on Tuesday in the historic recall election between Governor Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The Government Accountability Board is expecting turnout to be between 60-65%.