The sole Black candidate running for Wisconsin lieutenant governor said he found it suspicious that his name did not appear on some election notices in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary election. It raised concerns of voter suppression, especially in a state with a history of the practice, Mandela Barnes told NewsOne exclusively.
“It’s very strange that I was the only name left off the election guides,” Barnes told NewsOne Tuesday morning, the day of his Democratic primary contest. “I could see if there were a number of errors, but it was just my name left off.”
Barnes, 31, squared off Tuesday against businessman Kurt Kober for the chance to challenge incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in the November general election. Two independent candidates were also in the race, and their names appeared in the voter guides.
At least three Wisconsin newspapers omitted the name of the former state representative for Milwaukee on published election notices. Oneida County’s clerk accepted part of the blame for making a clerical error, Madison365.com reported. Barnes’ name also failed to appear in a newspaper located outside Oneida County, he said.
Barnes learned about the omissions when a friend in the Green Bay area noticed that the candidate’s name was missing. A second friend contacted him Monday with the same report about a different newspaper. Barnes, a Milwaukee native, went into panic mode and contacted the state election commission, which assured him that his name was still on election ballots statewide.
It’s easy to see why this situation raised fears of voter suppression. After Wisconsin’s Republican-led statehouse changed its voter registration law to mandate stricter identification in 2015, more than 200,000 people who were mostly African-Americans were blocked from voting in the 2016 presidential election, according to a study by the voting rights group Priorities USA. That was more than enough blocked votes to help President Donald Trump narrowly win the state.
Voter suppression in Wisconsin continues to be major issue for the 2018 elections.
“We do have huge voter suppression issues in Wisconsin,” Barnes said. “I won’t go so far as to say this is an instance of voter suppression, but we do have the most restrictive voter ID laws, and people have been purged from the voter rolls.”