Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Amazing Paradox Implicit in Randy Hopper's Residency Woes and the Wisconsin GOP's Voter ID Agenda

Seriously, does anyone know where Randy Hopper voted last fall?

If I'm starting to sound like a broken record it's only because there are some rather significant ramifications that result from the answer to this question. There's also a pretty fascinating paradox that is evolving from this situation that should have ethicists and political scientists devouring this recall like an ice cream social at fat camp.

The Cap Times apparently knows the address of Hopper's current residence, but is keeping it under wraps in deference to security concerns. Fair enough (for me, at least, and at the moment; I'm sure there are some legal issues surrounding no one knowing where a law-maker lives, but in this case at least someone does). Determining where Hopper voted should be a pretty easy trail to follow considering records of who voted in each election are public information.

The residence Hopper vacated when he filed for divorce is in the Town (as opposed to the City) of Fond du Lac, where the polling place is at Town Hall. Keeping that in mind, there are a number of ways in which Hopper may have broken the law last November. Again, let me stress this is all hypothetical, since we don't know the details where he voted. We're outlining these scenarios in the hopes that someone will track this information down (something that anonymous bloggers can't really do).
  • If the address Hopper gave to the Cap Times is located outside the town of Fond du Lac, then we next have to see where he voted. If Hopper's new digs are outside the town of Fond du Lac and he continued to vote inside the town of FdL, even though he has said publicly that he moved out 10 months ago (presumably to this new "apartment" cited by his staffers), we have a problem.
  • If Hopper's new abode is inside the town of FdL he would still vote there, where, presumably, he would still be registered. However, a poll worker would have likely asked him if he still lived at the address he is registered at in the voter rolls. If he answered yes for the sake of convenience, and had not changed his registration since moving out, we now have to ask ourselves if this constitutes lying to a poll worker.
  • If Hopper voted absentee or early voted, he would have had to essentially sign an affidavit confirming his residence. (Note: that's how it works in Winnebago County and I'm told that every county in Wisconsin has slightly different rules, but I can't imagine absentee/early vote procedures are all that different.) In any event, if Hopper did early vote, as many politicians and campaign workers apparently do, there would be a paper trail, a document that makes this all very cut and dry. He would have also been required to show a photo ID (again, at least in Winnebago County), and on that particular detail we have much more below.
Again, these are all hypothetical situations that could probably be dismissed with a quick trip to the Fond du Lac County Clerk's office and an open records request, but all of this is small ball compared to the larger Voter ID issue coming soon to a state legislature near you.

For years Wisconsin Republicans have been crying foul with allegations of voter fraud and stolen Elections. They've claimed that the only way to maintain the integrity of the vote is to require people to show a photo ID at the poll without giving much consideration to the lives lived by students, minority and low income families (traditionally Democratic voters, by the way) that have lives with less housing stability and can't take off 1-3 hours to go stand in line at the DMV between the hours of 8:00-5:00, Monday through Friday.

Hopper is also a busy guy, which is why I'd wager that Hopper availed himself of either early voting or absentee voting and in so doing left a paper trail that can resolve a lot of these questions. In both cases he would have had to sign documents certifying his residence. If he voted early (or "in-person absentee" as the kids call it), then he would have been required to show a photo ID.

Why is that important? Because when we look at the big picture of not just Hopper, but the laws governing how millions of people vote each year an amazing paradox becomes clear:

If Hopper has a state-issued photo ID for his current address, the apartment cited by his staff, which he received prior to last year's election when he voted legitimately at the proper polling place, then all of this discussion is kinda pointless. However, if he doesn't, as is his current right as a voter in Wisconsin, then the Wisconsin GOP's Voter ID argument falls through the floor. If the party backs him, Hopper becomes an extreme case of someone who can still vote legitimately despite serious questions about his ambiguous legal residency, which legitimize similar conditions for anyone who is not a state senator and demonstrates that IDs aren't necessary. Or the party can remain true to its own rhetoric, throw him under the proverbial bus and possibly lose the chance to push comprehensive Voter ID reform through the senate.

That's a dilemma that's almost cinematic in scope (albeit long on minutia). There's a lot going on here, but there's also a lot at stake. Voter ID is on its way and given the events of the last 6 weeks its entirely possible that Scott Walker will order it passed if he starts to get nervous about losing the senate. All of these questions and conjectures and hypotheticals can simply disappear with just a few answers. Unfortunately, Hopper's constituents -- of which I am one, may I remind you -- aren't being given those answers and that vacuum seems to get filled with even more questions.

MORE: This according to WKOW:
Campaign manager Jeff Harvey said Monday Hopper rented an apartment in the district.   But when an aide in Hopper’s senate office provided the address,  property records reflected a single family Town of Empire home co-owned by an employee of one of Hopper’s radio stations.   Campaign finance records also show the employee has contributed $450 to Hopper’s senate campaign committee.
Great. How long has he lived there? And where did he vote last November?

Crowdsourcing is hard.

MALcontends has more, as well.

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