The Poll Tax and Voter Preemption at the Dane Dems’ Dubious Debate

By Edward Kuharski
Photos by Nicole Desautels Schulte

The Dane County chapter of the Democratic Party held a candidate debate and straw poll at their monthly meeting Tuesday, April 10. It was a well-attended event held in the Conference Center of the Concourse Hotel in Madison.

Mike Basford introduces candidates at Dane Dems forum

There were several curious aspects to the gathering in addition to the many curious potential voters who came to size up who might best be up to the job of reliably returning the governor’s office to something recognizable as a public trust.

The Poll Tax and Voter Preemption

The first of these curious aspects was the “preemptive straw poll.” In a brilliant stroke of tone deafness, the Dane Dems decided to follow the Publishers Clearing House marketing model rather than use this as an opportunity to illustrate what inclusive democracy actually looks like. Attendees were urged to “vote” in the straw poll, but the franchise was only available to paid and signed-up members of the Democratic Party. So much for that big tent thing, so much for “try before you buy” and so much for the chapter having any curiosity about what is in the minds of undecided, independent voters like myself, much less any remorseful Republicans who might be looking to help the cause but won’t just vote for any candidate the DPW pukes up.

Can we say “preaching to the choir in the liberal echo chamber?”

To ensure that no new information would inadvertently issue from this forum, the straw poll was conducted before and during the candidate Q&A, rather than after. This effectively reduced the likelihood that anyone’s candidate preference might be unduly influenced by actually listening to the candidates and watching how they handled themselves in front of actual people. I’m sure this protected favored candidate Kathleen Falk from any awkward impression that she may not be a “slam dunk” with Dane County voters.

Can we say “disinvite the independent voter that our state is noted for?” (Remember how people like Russ Feingold and Dave Obey got elected and reelected?)

Curiouser yet, Dane County chapter Chair Mike Basford actually asked members who “only came to vote” to do so before the forum and then to leave so others could fit in the too-small room. Is it customary here in the heart of the nation’s “Laboratory of Democracy” to come to a candidate forum to cast a perfunctory vote and then hightail it out of there without hearing the candidates? If it wasn’t important to actually hear candidates, couldn’t the straw poll have been done more efficiently and without such a needless carbon footprint — perhaps by phone or online? Was is not important to actually attend the forum because loyal party members have already been told whom to vote for? That would be remarkably similar to the 27 “kamikaze” freshman Republican Assembly members who have been told “don’t think, don’t get out of line, don’t worry about reelection — we’ve got a nice private sector job waiting for you if you do as you are told.”


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2 Comments on “The Poll Tax and Voter Preemption at the Dane Dems’ Dubious Debate”

  1. Marlene Giese April 20, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    I’ve really started listening to what the candidates are saying. How come EVERYONE didn’t get that priviledge?

  2. Mount Horebite April 20, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    You must have mistaken this event for the gubernatorial primary. That’s in May. That’s where Democrats, independents and even Republicans can vote, and the result will choose the Democratic candidate for governor. This was a straw poll at the membership meeting of the Democratic Party of Dane County. Since the DPDC is a membership organization, it stands to reason that it cares what its members think and would verify their membership by verifying their dues payment. And since, as you note, the room was packed right up to the end of the forum, apparently nearly everyone there was interested in hearing all of what was said. I notice that you don’t mention the vote totals, which demonstrate that “loyal party members” certainly weren’t “told whom to vote for.” Equating this with the GOP gerrymandering conspiracy demonstrates a serious lack of ethical judgement. But I guess the Democratic Party is the easiest target for some folks on the left, whose comittment to ideological purity trumps actually building a party that can elect candidates to office.

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