Many say the emphasis on early voting has made the process of casting a ballot easier this year, a belief reflected in large numbers of votes already cast at City Hall.
However, the process of going to the polls is not as convenient as made out to be in a flyer distributed to several University of Wisconsin residence halls late last week. The mailing, sent by the College Republicans in coordination with the campaign of Republican Congressional candidate Dave Magnum, encouraged students to vote “at the polling place of your choice.”
But students, like everyone else, may vote at one and only one designated polling location, not at the spot of his or her choosing.
Adam Peer, Magnum’s campaign director, took responsibility for the misleading language.
“Everything comes across my desk — it’s something I should have caught,” Peer said.
Chancellor John Wiley became aware of the inaccuracy through a student complaint Friday afternoon, and distribution was suspended shortly thereafter. The Magnum campaign will release a new flyer today, with Peer personally monitoring the printing process to ensure all information is correct.
The flyer has supporters of U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is challenging Magnum in the upcoming election, crying foul. They allege the flyer included deliberately deceptive language aimed at decreasing turnout among student voters, a group that traditionally leans Democrat.
“The Magnum campaign is familiar with where people vote,” Eric Phillips, America Coming Together-Wisconsin press secretary, said. “Their half-hearted apology doesn’t carry much weight with us. It was a legitimate attempt to decrease voter turnout.”
Peer said the inaccuracy in the flyer was an honest mistake, and noted malicious behavior would fly against the campaign’s emphasis on fair play.
“Some folks are saying we’re trying to suppress voters, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Peer said. “The intent was to remind students to vote.”
In response to the erroneous flyer, Wiley will e-mail all students today with information on correct polling locations. The university will prepare a similar paper mailing for students living in University Housing.
Students can also locate polling places by calling a hotline at 1-866-MYVOTE1 established recently by the clean government group Common Cause in Wisconsin. On Election Day the hotline will serve as a means for voters to connect with local elections officials in case of any voting irregularities.
With a close presidential election expected in the state, Wisconsin has been wrought with allegations of potential fraud in recent weeks.
State GOP officials recently filed a complaint with the State Elections Board claiming thousands of names listed on Milwaukee voter registration rolls hail from fictitious addresses. Milwaukee election officials previously turned down the Republicans’ complaint, finding the GOP had not proved the disputed addresses were indeed fake.
UW spokesman John Lucas said he hoped the Magnum flyer was not fraudulent in nature and expressed confidence the mailing would not discourage students from showing up at the polls.
“We hope it was an honest error,” Lucas said. “UW students are smart — we hope they can figure it out.”
– James Davison contributed to this article