Thousands in Wisconsin Prohibited From Voting in 2016 General Election


After Donald Trump won the presidential election, complaints about citizens being turned away in Wisconsin abounded. In early 2017, Politifact said the claim was false. Nonetheless, a study, released on Sept. 25, that was conducted by political scientists indicates thousands of voters were unable to cast their ballots due to confusion over identification requirements.

Of those disallowed to vote was one elderly couple who lived in the same small Wisconsin town since they were married 65 years ago. Not only that, they voted at the same location for the entire time and were well known by the poll workers. The wife quit driving in 2010 and let her license expire. This did not deter her from being allowed to vote until the 2016 election. Because she was turned away, he chose not to vote. Alvin Meuller expressed his disconcertion, as follows: “We voted in Plymouth here for years. They know us and everything.”

Overview of the Wisconsin Non-Voter Study Results

The turnout for the 2016 presidential election was surprisingly low, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, also referred to as WisVote. In Dane and Milwaukee counties, 748,777 of 948,402 registered voters on the day of the election, the difference between the two were considered nonvoters.

Then, the researchers estimated that 34.7 percent of those were ineligible to vote in the election for numerous reasons including moving out of the county, passing away, or losing the right to vote by being convicted of a felony.

According to the study’s results, 11.2 percent of those who responded reported they were prevented from voting. Additionally, 6 percent were prevented from casting their ballots. Based on those numbers, 24, 802 nonvoters were not allowed exercise their right to choose the next president.

Wisconsin Voter ID Study Methodology

Researchers created a questionnaire for their study and mailed it to randomly selected registered voters who did not cast ballots in the general election. The mailer included a 4-page document containing 15 questions with numerous choices of answers, all of which are yes or no. The first seven asked about the reasons why the recipient did not vote, the balance was for statical data.

They did not ask “about partisanship or voter preferences,” since “the study was funded by the Dane County Clerk,” according to the FAQ about the Voter ID Study. The researchers obtained their data from WisVote, which only records voter participation. The agency does not keep information about who an individual voted for, nor does it have telephone numbers for every registered voter. WisVote, doe, however, have addresses in the files, hence the survey being done using the USPS.

Wisconsin Is One of Many States Republicans Made it Difficult to Vote

It is unknown how many people were kept from voting because of enacted new laws placing an undue burden on those without the means to obtain the prescribed identification. The Center for American Progress reports the following:

States have gone on a spree restricting voting rights and voter access since 2010, when Republican-controlled state legislatures began passing voter ID laws and other provisions making it more difficult to vote.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. This is what enabled 14 states to legislate new rules about how they supposedly protect the election process from so-called illegal ballots from being submitted. Most of these states claimed that they would make free identifications available for those who could not afford to purchase one. Unfortunately, many of these were out of reach by being either too far to travel or by having limited hours. In some states, these centers were only open two days a week.

With a Republican-dominated Congress and a president who collectively believe that people are voting illegally during every election, this trend of keeping lawfully eligible citizens from the polls is unlikely to change.

By Cathy Milne


The New York Times: Wisconsin Strict ID Law Discouraged Voters, Study Finds
Estimating the Effect of Voter ID on Nonvoters in Wisconsin in the 2016 Presidental Election:
Survey of Registered but Nonvoting Wisconsinites
Estimating the Effect of Voter ID on Nonvoters in Wisconsin in the 2016 Presidental Election: Questions and Answers about the Voter ID Study
USA TODAY: Wisconsin voter ID law proved insurmountable for many
Center for American Progress: Voter Suppression Laws Cost Americans Their Voices at the Polls

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Christopher Penn’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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