elections

Kim Wyman’s Campaign Is A Cautionary Tale

washington secretary of state

The Secretary of State’s office is not a particularly sexy one; stop a person on 5th Avenue in Seattle and ask “hey stranger, who’s the Secretary of State?” and they will either name John Kerry or give you a blank stare.

This general lack of enthusiasm and recognition likely would have been beneficial for current Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman in her reelection campaign. Wyman, a Republican, holds a seat that has been (strangely) kept out of the hands of Democrats for nearly 50 years, and she could possibly have sailed into her second term on a hope and a prayer were it not for two key factors:

1.) Her opponent and

2.) Herself.

Way back in January—well before the primaries were even started in earnest—former Seattle City Councilmember and tech-sector leader Tina Podlodowski announced she would be challenging Wyman. Podlodowski’s campaign focused on expanding voting access (one of her first ads featured footage of Wyman saying she would not support the Washington Voting Rights Act), streamlining elections, and saving taxpayers money.

A major part of Podlodowski’s campaign against Wyman has been undermining Wyman’s time in office; she’s cited low voter turnout, a lack of ballot boxes, and the frustration voters felt over the caucus system in the spring. In September, she uncovered a glaring error in the state’s voter database that could have resulted in a data breach—and seemed to pin its existence on Wyman’s inattention.

Podlodowski has turned what might have otherwise been Wyman’s sleepy cruise into incumbency into an actual race. But she’s not even Wyman’s biggest enemy, as the last few days have demonstrated.

Despite netting endorsements from many of the local newspapers, Wyman’s earned media has largely been soured by her own record. After the Everett Herald wrote that she “deserves another term,” Rep. Luis Moscoso wrote in to correct their editorial, stating that “Wyman didn’t step up” on voting rights.

In attempt to turn the tide in her favor last week, Wyman made her first major announcement of the campaign—using the recent, deadly shooting at the Cascade Mall as a springboard, Wyman’s office released a proposal to require identification and proof of citizenship paperwork to register to vote.

“During this past week, questions were raised about the citizenship of Arcan Cetin, who confessed to murdering five people at Cascade Mall in Burlington,” read the release from the SoS’s office. “He registered in 2014 and voted in three elections. On each of those occasions, he affirmed that he was a U.S. citizen and met the other qualifications to be a voter. The penalty of registration and voter fraud is a prison term of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.”

Unfortunately for Wyman, Cetin’s citizenship had been verified just hours before her slated announcement; as a result, the proposal seemed desperate and in poor taste.

Voter ID laws are kind of a conservative (read: racist) dogwhistle—except for the fact that just about everyone can hear them, which means the announcement was sure to turn off some of the moderate folks that Wyman would need to win the entire state. To try to play both sides, Wyman’s announcement was slated as “bipartisan,” and included a provision for automatic voter registration. Unfortunately, that part of the story was quickly buried by all of the rest of it and likely didn’t win anyone over.

And then there’s today’s October surprise—a complaint filed by the Washington Attorney General’s Office alleging numerous instances of campaign finance reporting violations. They aren’t massive and they aren’t especially shady, but they are sloppy. And there are a lot of them.

Which doesn’t exactly bode well, considering the job that Wyman is trying to keep.

Up and down, Wyman has shown that campaigning is not her forte—unfortunately, in an office that oversees campaigns and elections, that seems like a pretty huge problem. Sure, you could say it’s just paperwork, but then what is the job of Secretary of State if not paperwork?

Wyman’s campaign isn’t a complete disaster, but it is a cautionary tale; public disclosure in Washington is watched closely and taken seriously, and paperwork needs to be filed in a timely manner. If Wyman can’t manage to do it on the campaign trail, it’s hard to say if she’ll be able to do it in office.

Republican Admits Voter ID Laws Help Republican Candidates

Last night, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman did something unforgivable for a Republican politician: he told the truth.

Here’s what Grothman told a Milwaukee TV reporter when he was asked about Republican presidential prospects in November: “I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”

Grothman is referring, of course, to Wisconsin’s incredibly restrictive new voter ID law. Amée Latour at Bustle explains that the law demands that voters show certain types of photo ID at the polls, including “different types of IDs issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the military, or colleges.” If you don’t have a photo ID with you on election day, you vote on a provisional ballot and then you have until end of day on Friday to show a photo ID to a county clerk.

Usually when you ask the conservatives who promote these kinds of voter ID laws, they’ll tell you that they’re only trying to stop voter fraud. Never mind that US District Judge Lynn Adelman found that

The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.

The only evidence even relating to voter impersonation that the defendants introduced was the testimony of Bruce Landgraf, an Assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee County. Landgraf testified that in “major elections,” by which he means gubernatorial and presidential elections, his office is asked to investigate about 10 or 12 cases in which a voter arrives at the polls and is told by the poll worker that he or she has already cast a ballot.

However, his office determined that the vast majority of these cases—approximately 10 each election—have innocent explanations, such as a poll worker’s placing an indication that a person has voted next to the wrong name in the poll book.

Further, Judge Adelman insisted that voter fraud was not likely to become a problem “in the foreseeable future.”

As the plaintiffs’ unrebutted evidence shows, a person would have to be insane to commit voter-impersonation fraud. The potential costs of perpetrating the fraud, which include a $10,000 fine and three years of imprisonment, are extremely high in comparison to the potential benefits, which would be nothing more than one additional vote for a preferred candidate (or one fewer vote for an opposing candidate), a vote which is unlikely to change the election’s outcome.

Even though voter fraud has been disproven time and again, lawmakers who support voter ID laws nevertheless keep banging the drum about fraud, and they throw in the specter of undocumented immigrants, too, because that amorphous threat keeps a certain subset of voters irrationally frothing at the mouth.

But what Grothman did the video above is the unthinkable: he actually said out loud—on tape!—the reason why politicians favor voter ID laws. It’s because conservative politicians understand that when more people vote, progressive policies win. The kinds of people who are likely to suffer under voter ID laws—people who don’t have photo IDs, or who don’t have the time to jump through the hoops of a provisional ballot paper chase if they didn’t know about the new laws—vote Democrat. In fact, the only hope for the two major Republican presidential candidates left is that turnout in November is so low that they squeak through to victory. Voter ID laws are an essential part of that plan.

I’m sure Grothman received a bunch of phone calls last night, from Reince Priebus and Karl Rove and whoever else is in charge of the party these days, chastising him for overtly saying what has until now been unspoken in Wisconsin. There’s a reason why they call it “dog whistle” politics: because if human ears could hear the shrill noise coming from Republican leaders, they would shrivel away in revulsion. In fact, that’s already happening with Donald Trump’s favorability ratings. When you make the subtext overt, people suddenly realize how monstrous the things you’ve been saying all along really are.