Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, citing vote-fraud concerns, is publicly balking at a City of Milwaukee request for almost 260,000 additional ballots in anticipation of high turnout for the Nov. 2 presidential election.
Mayor Tom Barrett blasted Walker's stance, and Common Council President Willie Hines Jr. immediately joined in, saying it was an attempt to suppress the central-city vote.
Barrett said that the 679,000 ballots the county had agreed to print were less than the amount prepared for the presidential election in 2000 as well as for the the gubernatorial race in 2002. He and the city's top election official said that the city requested 938,000 ballots from the county, which, by law, pays for and prints ballots.
The flare-up between Barrett and Walker pits two of the most prominent politicians in the Milwaukee area who - while holding non-partisan offices - are on opposite sides of the presidential race. Walker, a Republican, is a state co-chair of President Bush's campaign, while Barrett, a Democrat, is state co-chair of the John Kerry campaign.
Neither cited those roles in the exchange, but the dispute is playing out against a partisan backdrop in a battleground state.
More specifically, it involves central-city voters, most of them minorities, thousands of whom have been registered in recent months by voter-registration groups. Those efforts, though non-partisan, are widely viewed as helping the Democrats; Bush drew just 2% in 2000 in Milwaukee's predominantly African-American voting wards.
Similar vote-stifling games are being played by GOP operatives in Nevada, Oregon, and elsewhere.
Here's your October surprise: voter suppression. Anti-democracy is the new Republican platform.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Paul Krugman cites this same story and theme in his column in today's New York Times.