Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

GOP Leader Thrilled to Suppress City Vote

Republican ads targeted Black and Hispanic voters to discourage voting. Did they work?

By - Jan 10th, 2023 11:50 am
Only 61,634 votes were cast in the Feb 15., 2022 primary. Photo taken Feb 15., 2022 by Jeramey Jannene.

Only 61,634 votes were cast in the Feb 15., 2022 primary. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Republican Robert Spindell, a member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, is proud as a peacock of the work Republicans did to suppress the vote in Milwaukee in the November 2022 election. Spindell, who also serves as chairperson of the party’s Fourth Congressional District, which includes much of Milwaukee County and almost all of the city of Milwaukee, sent an email to Republicans in the district hailing the party’s success at undermining the democratic process:

“In the City of Milwaukee, with the 4th Congressional District Republican Party working very closely with the RPW, RNC, Republican Assembly & Senate Campaign Committees, Statewide Campaigns and RPMC in the Black and Hispanic areas, we can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.”

“…this great and important decrease in Democrat votes in the City” was due to a “well thought out multi-faceted plan,” Spindell bragged, that included:

  • “Biting Black Radio Negative Commercials run last few weeks of the election cycle straight at Dem Candidates…
  • A substantial & very effective Republican Coordinated Election Integrity program resulting with lots of Republican paid Election Judges & trained Observers & extremely significant continued Court Litigation.”

Urban Milwaukee shared these comments with Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler, who was momentarily stunned.

“Wow,” Wikler said. “That’s as ugly as it gets. I have never seen someone take credit so blatantly for suppressing the vote. We saw the same techniques with the Russian effort to suppress the vote in 2016.”

In the 2016 presidential election, Russian trolls targeted Black people with social media messages attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton to “confuse, distract, and ultimately discourage” Black citizens and other pro-Clinton blocs from voting.

Spindell’s message also pointed to Republican efforts to sell GOP candidates to Black and Hispanic voters, including opening party offices in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods and holding Black & Hispanic Republican oriented events, but the net efffect, he noted, was to convince them not to vote. “Promoting the Republican “Cares” Message; pointing out the many flaws of the Democrat Candidates; coupled with a Lack of Interest, persuaded many voters not to vote,” his message bragged.

Since the this article was published, Spindell has offered an entirely different, undated “memorandum” he penned that softens the language he used. So we have now published his entire email and linked to the refashioned message Spindell crafted and which the media has quoted. The two documents are quite different, as our follow up story notes.

Spindell, who was one of the 10 Republican fake electors in Wisconsin that schemed to overturn the 2020 election, is more extreme than many party leaders in the state. But the GOP delight in suppressing the votes of Democratic-leaning citizens goes back many years, to when legislators were “giddy” about how the photo ID law they passed would reduce the turnout in Milwaukee. In fact, in the 2016 presidential election, the first one fully effected by the law, there was a 61,000 reduction in the number of voters in Milwaukee, with Neil Albrecht, then the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, saying that the greatest declines were “in the districts we projected would have the the most trouble with ID requirements.”

In short, the latest voter suppression efforts described by Spindell are part of an ongoing strategy by Republicans. But is he right, that those efforts in Milwaukee resulted in a significantly lower turnout for the city’s Black and Hispanic voters then in the 2018 midterm election? Wikler isn’t so sure.

Ads on Black radio “can have a big impact on Black voters” he notes, so those GOP ads might have hurt Democratic candidates. But Democrats were also “investing heavily on Black radio, he adds. “And I think Black voters are often very sophisticated and know when people are trying to manipulate them.”

But Wikler also points to successful efforts by Republican officials to use the law and court cases to eliminate the use of absentee ballot boxes and reduce the period for early voting from six weeks to two weeks. Both methods of voting had helped drive the high turnout in Milwaukee in 2018. “Republicans have done all they could to make it harder for Milwaukee voters in particular,” he charges.

The post-elections statistics compiled by Marquette professor John D. Johnson for Urban Milwaukee definitely show the Milwaukee turnout was down in 2022 compared to the 2018 turnout, by 46,284 votes in Milwaukee County. Meanwhile the number of votes cast in the surrounding WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington) actually increased over 2018.

However, it was not just Milwaukee, but every municipality in Milwaukee County that saw its turnout decline, with some by a higher percentage than Milwaukee. On the other hand, more then three-fourths of the county’s decline in votes cast, 36,781, was in the city of Milwaukee. Had those voters gone to the polls it might have been enough to give the election to Democrat Mandela Barnes in the race for U.S. Senate that incumbent Republican Ron Johnson won.

Wikler notes that Milwaukee is not the only big city to see this kind of decline: “There were drops in voting in Detroit, Philadelphia and Columbus.” Democrats are trying to understand if there is some common factor affecting Milwaukee and these cities.

He also notes there may have been population shifts, with some city residents moving to the suburbs, that could affect the total number of votes cast. “We won’t know the answers until we have the specific data on specific voters” that will eventually be compiled and released by the Wisconsin Election Commission.

But whatever the final numbers show, the Milwaukee election results are a disappointment to Democrats. “We invested an unprecedented amount on organizing and on media that reaches Black and Hispanic voters in particular in the 2022 election,” Wikler notes.

“Figuring out how to support increased turnout in Milwaukee is an urgent priority for our party.”

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7 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: GOP Leader Thrilled to Suppress City Vote”

  1. GodzillakingMKE says:

    Treason is the reason for his existence.

  2. Keith Prochnow says:

    Spindell is one of those ten Wisconsin “fake electors” who should have been arrested for fraud long ago. Do you hear me, Josh Kaul?

  3. blurondo says:

    Through his braggadocio Spindell has loudly affirmed his blatant racism.

  4. kaygeeret says:

    A recent quote regarding one ex president apparently applies to all republicans.

    “…a shabby man without a moral compass, pinched of heart and cramped in spirit.”

    David Greenburg writing about Nixon

    weird how it apparently applies to almost all current republicans in any political role.

    Plus, Spindell needs to be arrested and tried for sedition.

  5. Thomas Williams says:

    As a disabled combat veteran of the war in Vietnam, all I can say is how appalling it is to read this! Every vet and every veterans organization should have this emblazoned on their newsletters and other means of communication!!! This is a political idea which is antithetical to why we placed our bodies in harm’s way!! If democracy means anything it means seeking to assure the will of the people is acknowledged and respected. The idea that keeping some from participating in that process for no other reason than they might not vote for “my party” should be be seen and acknowledged as simply a desire for autocracy!

  6. deborahconta says:

    To paraphrase Robert Welch in his chastisement of Joe McCarthy, Mr. Spindell, Have you no sense of decency? No sense of shame?

  7. Thomas Sepllman says:

    Yes this is only part of the reason May I suggest that the Choice and Charter School advocates did not vote for Dems Some may have stayed home and some voted Rep. When the community calls out those folks then maybe some progress will be made.

    YET for, times to numerous to count, The issues of MPS is TRAUMA

    The issue of “CRIME” is kids who have been traumatized and not gotten the THERAPY that they need to HEAL their DEVELOPING BRAINS.

    We KNOW that folks abdicated to drugs NEED treatment WHY

    do we knot KNOW THAT FOLKS who are traumatized NEED treatment NOT JAIL!!

    It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

    Peace Call me if you do not understand 414 403 1341

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