Whistleblower fired after revealing Wisconsin ‘voter suppression’
A Wisconsin state employee has been fired after he revealed that a Department of Transportation official had instructed workers to not notify citizens that IDs necessary for voting could be obtained for free.
State employee Chris Larsen told radio host John “Sly” Sylvester that his bosses at the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) had become upset because he sent an email to other employees Thursday to remind them that photo IDs were supposed to be available without charge.
“Do you know someone who votes that does not have a State ID that meets requirements to vote?” Larsen asked in his email, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Tell them they can go to the DMV/DOT and get a free ID card. However they must ask for the free ID. a memo was sent out by the 3rd in command of the DMV/DOT. The memo specifically told the employees at the DMV/DOT not to inform individuals that the ID’s are free. So if the individuals seeking to get the free ID does not ask for a free ID, they will have to pay for it!!”
Just a day earlier, The Capital Times had revealed the memo written by Department of Transportation’s Steve Krieser.
“While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it,” Krieser told Division of Motor Vehicle employees.
Moments after being fired, Larsen spoke to Sylvester in an interview.
“I decided that I thought it would be prudent as a fellow citizen of the state and just a decent human being in general to send out an email to all of my constituents where I work that they should be informed,” Larsen recalled. “As a result, I am not apparently employed.”
“At some point, my supervisor came in and wanted to talk to me so I left the room with her. We went and talked to another guy that’s a little higher up and they said that they decided that — they said that it was not appropriate for me to send that email… and they said that [DSPS Secretary] Dave Ross is going to be really mad when he sees the email and they figure it’s best if we part ways.”
“I don’t know what to say other than this is the sort of authoritarian government we live under now,” Sylvester told him.
“We have an administration that put out an edict warning DMV workers not to tell anyone that the ID that someone is requesting is free even though the legislature put funds away to make sure that someone who didn’t have a driver’s license could get an ID so they wouldn’t have to pay to vote,” the radio host added. “Mr. Larsen sent out an email reminding state workers [that the IDs were free] and for that they are so paranoid and so guilty of the very thing we accuse them of — and that is voter suppression — that they fired a man.”
Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed the law requiring a photo ID to vote into law earlier this year. Critics claim that the new voting restrictions disenfranchise minorities, students, the poor and the elderly — all groups who tend to vote Democratic.
A practice run in July found that nearly 20 percent of voters coming to the polls did not have a photo ID with them.
This audio is from WTDY’s Sly in the Morning, recorded Sept. 8, 2011.