Wisconsin Accused of Voter Suppression in 2016 Election

‘Mother Jones’ story recounts experiences of African American voters, plus recent UW research.

Mother Jones magazine has published an investigation of the 2016 election in Wisconsin — won by Donald Trump in the state by just 23,000 votes — and found that “voter suppression,” in the form of the state’s voter ID law, had a significant role in Trump’s victory.

The claim, rejected in the past by Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans, was made in an article with the online title “Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump/And possibly handed him the whole election.” It cites an interview with one black woman whose vote didn’t count because she’d lost her driver’s license, and mentions other members of her family in the same predicament. It also described the difficulty other African Americans had getting IDs from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

It also recounted Republican-backed laws in recent years that have made it more difficult for people, especially poor people, to vote in Wisconsin.

And it cited research by UW-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer that examined the reasons that registered voters in the state’s two most populous (and most Democratic) counties — Milwaukee and Dane — didn’t vote in the 2016 election. Mayer found that 11 percent those respondents cited the voter ID law as a reason for not voting.

Wisconsin was one of three Rust Belt states that unexpectedly put Trump over the top last November.

The article said that most media ignored the effect of what it called voter suppression on the 2016 results, though the Journal Sentinel has covered these issues extensively. The writer, Ari Berman, said the media instead focused on missteps of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the drop-off of enthusiasm among African-American voters who backed President Barack Obama — and of course Russian meddling.

We offered Walker’s office a chance to comment on the story, but we hadn’t heard back as of Wednesday morning.




Tom Tolan is managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine, where he's worked since January 2016. He spent 24 years at The Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a copy editor, assistant metro editor and reporter. He lives in Shorewood.