In the above Postscript published Tuesday, I noted de facto Democrat Judge Jill Karofsky’s victory over de facto Republican Justice Daniel Kelly, and commented that Ms. Karofsky’s 10-point margin of victory over Mr. Kelly was particularly impressive “… given what I understand was a depressed turnout in Milwaukee County.”
Although I have been writing in these pages for quite a while, I’m still not sure whether anyone but me can readily view entered comments. Soon after the post, a close friend questioned my implication that the Milwaukee County voter turnout was depressed by the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature’s insistence on holding the April 7 election notwithstanding pandemic fears and the grossly reduced number of Milwaukee city polling places. He noted that the Karofsky/Kelly Milwaukee County vote total (which approximated 200,000) was higher than the Milwaukee County vote total in the 2019 Wisconsin Supreme Court race between de facto Republican Brian Hagedorn and de facto Democrat Lisa Neubauer (which approximated 150,000), won by now-Justice Hagedorn by .5%. There are no pure apples-to-apples comparisons — the Karofsky/Kelly ballot included a Democratic Presidential primary not on the Hagedorn/Neubauer ballot, and the Karofsky/Kelly total was roughly half that of the Milwaukee County turnout in the 2018 Gubernatorial contest between current WI Gov. Tony Evers and then-WI Gov. Scott Walker – but the 2019 Hagedorn/Neubauer Milwaukee County vote total – a quarter less than the corresponding Karofsky/Kelly county vote total – is certainly an objective indication that the Republican action did not depress last week’s Milwaukee County voter turnout to any significant degree. Our friend added: “I know that the argument is that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote. Either they’re not very good at it or that is not what is going on. Data doesn’t seem to support the suppression theory.” [Someone very close to me asserts that just because the Karofsky/Kelly numbers weren’t down compared to similar races doesn’t mean that the Republicans’ action didn’t suppress voter turnout in the City of Milwaukee. I intend to leave this debate to them ;)].
The reference to actual Milwaukee County vote totals was a valuable reminder for me: all news sources, either intentionally or unconsciously, emphasize those facts that they consider the most important. After seeing any number of reports about an impending depressed Milwaukee turnout and the indisputably grossly reduced number of polling sites in the city itself, I assumed that the Karofsky/Kelly Milwaukee County vote total clearly lagged the County’s totals in the most comparable state contests – which, no matter which side of the suppression debate you take, it did not. In an editorial published on the evening of April 14, The Wall Street Journal observed, “Republicans may have disenfranchised many of their own voters, who tend to be older and perhaps feared voting in person if they hadn’t requested an absentee ballot.” Without regard to political persuasion, if one believes that the Republicans were trying to manipulate the election process for Justice Kelly’s benefit – which I do – one cannot help but conclude that they were, indeed, not very good at it.
The exchange arising from the Postscript was in another way an excellent reminder for me that I fear is too easily overlooked in today’s partisan environment: it is as important to safeguard the voting rights of those with whom we disagree as it is to safeguard the franchise for those with whom we agree. Although it’s a particularly keen irony if Wisconsin Republicans’ efforts did ultimately significantly depress their own supporters’ vote in last week’s election, any suppression should be abhorred in a true democracy.
The Wall Street Journal said nothing significant in its editorial that our friend hadn’t noted during the day’s exchanges. Some of us retirees really get into this stuff. 🙂