Once Again, Americans for Prosperity Center of Mailing Allegations About Voter Suppression

AFP, Priebus-Led Republican Party of WI, Tea Party Groups Implicated in Thwarted-2010 Voter Caging Scheme

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MADISON, Wis. — New allegations of potential voter suppression surrounding a questionable absentee mailing by the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity are an eerie reminder of a thwarted-2010 voter caging scheme uncovered by One Wisconsin Now that included Americans for Prosperity-WI, the Republican Party of Wisconsin and then-chair Reince Priebus and the various so-called Tea Party groups.

“When it comes to voter suppression with Americans for Prosperity, it’s deja vu all over again,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now. “It looks like Americans for Prosperity is complementing hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate spending to save Scott Walker’s Senate majority with another potential voter suppression scheme.”

Media reports today indicate “Americans for Prosperity is sending absentee ballots to Democrats in at least two Wisconsin state Senate recall districts with instructions to return the paperwork after the election date. The fliers, obtained by POLITICO, ask solidly Democratic voters to return ballots for the Aug. 9 election to the city clerk ‘before Aug. 11. A Democrat on the ground in Wisconsin said the fliers were discovered to be hitting doors in District 2 and District 10 over the weekend.’” [Politico, 8/1/11]

In 2010, One Wisconsin Now released audio recordings, documents and strategy memos it obtained which pointed to a coordinated plot by the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin and organizations in the so-called Tea Party movement targeting minority voters and college students in a “voter caging” effort for voter suppression.

According to the statements made on the 2010 recordings, Tim Dake, head of the leading Tea Party group laid out the plans, detailing contact between himself and Preibus, the then-Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair and Mark Block, then-state director of Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin, who is now chief of staff for presidential candidate Herman Cain:

  • The Republican Party of Wisconsin will use its “Voter Vault” statewide voter file to compile a list of minority and student voters in targeted Wisconsin communities.
  • Americans for Prosperity will use this list to send mail to these voters indicating the voter must call and confirm their registration information, and telling them if they do not call the number provided they could be removed from the voter lists.
  • The Tea Party organizations will recruit and place individuals as official poll workers in selected municipalities in order to be able to make the challenges as official poll workers.
  • On Election Day, these organizations will then “make use” of any postcards that are returned as undeliverable to challenge voters at the polls, utilizing law enforcement, as well as attorneys trained and provided by the RPW, to support their challenges.

According to the recordings, Dake told the assembled Tea Party members he leads:

So, what we’re hoping is that the various groups in the coalition plus Americans for Prosperity and Mark Block, who has been in on this, and the Republican Party, and this is coming all the way from the top: Reince Priebus has said, “We’re in.” And there’s a reason why these guys are volunteering to work with us. They have access to what they call Voter Vault, you know the records of voting. They can go in there and look for lapsed voters. They can go in and compare lists of voters and say, “Oh look at this. This person is registered in this county, this county, this county, and this county.” And do something about this. So we’re talking about a broad based support behind this idea. What they’re offering is training.

At the time, RPW executive director Mark Jefferson said Priebus had only general discussions with Dake about the issue of voter fraud and that the GOP had never actually went ahead with any of the plans Dake had outlined in the recording. “We had discussion with everyone about this, but as far as sending out letters like this, I haven’t had any discussions like that,” Jefferson said. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/21/10]

Additional documents showed; however, that Dake and AFP head Mark Block admitted that mailings had gone out. One Wisconsin Now detailed that the first targets of those mailings appeared to be focused on university students in Milwaukee County. The document, said “AFP has mailed first 500 to Milwaukee districts 39, 60 and 62. Additional mailing as funding is obtained.”

Ward 39 is the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2008, 1,891 of the 1,966 votes cast in that ward came from 3400 Maryland Avenue, the Sandburg Residence Hall, which houses 2,700 students. In addition, wards 60 and 62 cited in the apparent voter caging plan both cover the Marquette University campus.

More information about the 2010 scheme is available at: www.SaveWisconsinsVote.org.

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One Wisconsin Now specializes in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.