A Wis. Call for GOP Poll Watchers Draws National Notice
By Mary Pat Flaherty
The Wisconsin Republican Party has issued a call for volunteer poll watchers for Election Day, and the criteria is a little specific, seeking especially folks made of sterner stuff.
Jonathan Waclawski, the party's election day operations, wrote in a Sept. 8 e-mail that he needed contact information for people "who would potentially be willing to volunteer ... at inner city (more intimidating) polling places. Particularly, I am interested in names of Milwaukee area veterans, policemen, security personnel, firefighters etc. ... If you have any connections with such organizations, please pass that information on."
The e-mail fell into the hands of an Obama supporter, who passed it to the Obama campaign, who released it today after a news conference with its campaign director and general counsel, who discussed voter registration, voter education and voter protection.
The Obama team pointed to Waclawski's e-mail as ground-level tactics that could create concerns among voters.
"This is much ado about nothing. I don't see anything wrong with this," said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman with the Wisconsin GOP. "Intimidating was referring to the polling places, not to poll watchers who would be intimidating," she said. "The way I read this we are looking for people to go to intimidating places.
"We are not going to send an 80-year-old woman from the suburbs, who has been making calls for us, into the city where she is not used to driving, not used to parking, not used to finding her way," Kukowski said. "It is an incredible leap to say from what is in that e-mail that we are looking for big people at the polls. No way does it say that."
She said the release of the e-mail was an attempt by the Obama campaign to draw attention away from voter registration fraud problems.The Democrats had said earlier in the day that the GOP focus on such problems were intended to draw attention away from efforts to tamp down turnout.
The categories of people solicited in that e-mail, Kukowski said, "know the city and are more prepared to be working under those circumstances."
The party needs poll watchers in every county, she said, "and we reach out to everybody." She said she did not know how many poll workers volunteered after the e-mail went out.
"I'm very surprised the Obama campaign would give this out," Kukowski said. "But that is good to know."
Posted at 9:08 PM ET on Oct 14, 2008
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