WISCONSIN RAPIDS – A man regarded as a local internet troll, and public nuisance, happily gloated as he finally found an archaic law that he could use to attempt to derail the campaign of a beloved mayor. Apparently, it was once deemed election fraud to show your ballot to someone else, so a photo posted on Facebook has been said to be in violation of said law. While our technology continues to change the world, the world (or at least the U.S.) sadly remains stuck in the 1700s.
The mayor removed the post after being made aware of its illegal nature. The Wood County District Attorney is reviewing the complaint. The local “news” media is having a field day covering the story and pretending that they knew such an action was considered to be an act of election fraud and a felony.
The fact is that few people would know this. Many of my fellow election workers only recently found out about this following an election held in 2012 where a man was seen taking a picture with his cellphone. One chief inspector approached the man to make him aware that it would not be permissible for him to show that photo to anyone.
Now it could be argued that common sense dictates that a candidate for office would naturally vote for himself or herself and that the photo shared on Facebook would have surprised no one. That is in and of itself a good argument for overturning said law but irrelevant as a defense. However, what is entirely relevant is that in cases where illegal content was shared on a Web site, even a user-generated site such as Facebook, it has been the general legal consensus that the content provider (the company that houses the servers that hosts the site) is the party responsible for any illegal content. This precedent is generally referred to as a Cybershield Law and has a history that is steeped in media law applying to print publications.
For example, if a newspaper decides to run a letter to the editor where the writer libels another person, it is the newspaper that would be held responsible as they are the content provider. Same holds true for a newspaper’s Web site as long as said newspaper owns the servers that houses the paper’s Web pages. For this very reason, the troll tattler routinely launches personal attacks at almost everyone in the area in online forums housed on the sites of local media providers. He does so without fear of being sued for libel, because while many have believed the troll to be mentally deficient, he has acquired enough knowledge to cover his ass.
Take a look at Wisconsin Circuit Court Access sometime and ask yourself how this troll and some of his friends can get away without ever paying their medical bills, or how they can stay in their homes even though they fail to pay their mortgages. These are not small debts, and they are things that those of us who do pay our bills wind up picking up the tab for. If you ask me, that is its own kind of fraud and it should be considered a felony. But God forbid we go over after crooks who are working the system! Better that we go after someone who accidently shows you that he voted the way you would expect him to vote.
Despite the ridiculousness, all of this is irrelevant because the guilty party, if this actually went to court, would be Facebook since that is the content provider. It is not like Facebook never removes “objectionable” content. If you make a post with the word “boobies,” count on it being removed. One bird watching club had an advertisement for their annual birding trip pulled after listing blue-footed boobies as some of the birds people could expect to see on their trip. So if Facebook can remove that kind of post, I think it would be only reasonable that they could remove a post featuring a photograph of a ballot. Just saying.
There are so many lessons to be learned here, but most importantly, that one has to be extremely careful when posting to social media. Not that the actual law of the land will find you at fault, but that there will always be some troll out to get you.
DISCLAIMER: The following piece is satire. Any resemblance to future events is coincidental.
OCONOMOWOC, WI - Molly Ivins was once quoted as saying, “Trying to organize liberals is like trying to herd cats.” Perhaps that is what organizers of a recent prank were trying to prove as they released 50 cats into the main hall at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin State Convention.
Three men and one woman, posed as caterers for Saturday’s event, wheeled several carts draped with table clothes into the convention hall. As Representative Ron Kind took the stage, the caterers released the cats from crates hidden on the food carts. The catering party exited the convention center before any of the delegates realized what was happening.
“I was sleeping in my chair when all of a sudden I woke up sneezing,” said Pam Swiggert, a highly allergic delegate from Stoughton.
Jeff Smith, DPW organizer said, “I wonder if the caterers were trying to deliver a resolution to the party,” adding, “many of the cats had been wearing collars that read: ‘Instant Runoff Voting.’”
Some convention goers were more than happy to have the cats there. Of the 50 cats released into the crowd, 42 were said to go to good homes. Eight cats remain missing.
Royd Pyles of Twin Lakes was quoted as saying, “I just love to eat pussy!” Senator Tammy Baldwin was unavailable for comment.
The prankster caterers remain at large. Waukesha County police are on the lookout for a group of four people covered with cat scratches. A special tips line has been set up for the investigation. Anyone with information about the crime is encouraged to call 262-555-MEOW.
If you live within the City of Wisconsin Rapids, you have probably heard enough chatter about the mayoral race.
Talk to city workers and you will hear resounding endorsements for Mary Jo Carson and the way things used to be. While Carson and her fans nit-pick Mayor Vruwink, a voice of reason should point out that Carson never had to work within the draconian budget confines that were enacted by our governor just as she was leaving office.
Unlike the city employees airing their grievances, I see many positives that have come out of Mayor Vruwink’s leadership. Since Vruwink has been in office, my road gets cleared of snow earlier, is better patrolled by law enforcement, and is overall safer.
Heck, the whole downtown area is safer! We now have bike lanes across Grand Avenue bridge, and that is a big deal to anyone who has been forced to bike on the sidewalks across the bridge every year up until this past year. It is far safer for pedestrians!
Here are just a few other things Vruwink has done: City beautification measures, improvement of recreation areas, initiatives to promote efficiency of city employees (huh… could this be the real beef of city workers?), and programs slated at cleaning up contaminated parcels.
The thing that everyone needs to realize is that when Mayor Vruwink tries to get through initiatives to make city employees more efficient, he is actually trying to help people keep their jobs. He is problem solving! You know, the thing that we the people hire a mayor to do.
I realize that there are enough people critical of Lean Six Sigma and managerial concepts like it, however Lean Six Sigma worked wonders for Motorola, the first and only company to make a cell phone that is entirely made in the U.S.A., hence saving (and creating) jobs for Americans. That is the very same kind of thing Mayor Vruwink is trying to do for this city. I, for one, would like to see him finish the job.
Groups are popping up all the time, identifying issues such as the corrupting influence of big money in politics, the need to find qualified individuals to run for office, and how to best get representation for the causes we champion. What such groups are missing is any kind of strategy for solving the problems that they identify. A group has formed in Wisconsin Rapids recently that fits this bill. The only sort of strategy that I have heard about is that if the group gets large enough, it can put manpower, but not money, behind a Democratic candidate to get the person elected. Members of this group avow to hold the persons, should they be elected, to their campaign promises.
My question is: How is this different from what is done every election season? It is more effective when political action committees do the same thing since they can pay canvassers. You can have a huge group of volunteers, and a small fraction will actually be willing to make phone calls or go door to door. And while going door to door is an effective tool for electing someone, holding politicians accountable is another ballgame. You can write your elected officials, lobby them, show up at their listening sessions, and create petitions to be delivered to them, and sometimes that has an effect. Sometimes it doesn’t. If your candidate receives most of their campaign funds from big ag, they are not going to push for a moratorium on CAFOs, even if 800 constituents ask that of them. I know, I have witnessed this exact scenario. And then another election season arrives and you are not happy with the candidate that you voted for before, but they are better than the other person running, so you cast your ballot the same.
The notion to primary such a candidate has been proposed. It is what the Tea Party does all the time, and it has pushed the Republican party to the extreme right. It worked for that grassroots movement, why wouldn’t it work for ours? Simple answer is that the Tea Party movement never was grassroots. NEVER!!! Might I suggest the documentary The Billionaires’ Tea Party.
However, do not despair, for here is a strategy that could really make a difference!
1) No more meet and gripe! We all know we have issues near and dear to us, and most of us have already identified these 200 times over. Move on! Once a movement enters any place where a meeting draws on longer than an hour, it has already died. Such places are the dens of complacency. So are protests. It is time to get agitated! The time for meetings and demonstrations has passed. It is time for action!!!
2) It is essential that we do everything in our power to overcome the disparity in election workers and recruit Democrats to work for their precincts. We will never be able to elect the kind of people we want in office if we don’t have fair elections first. I have begun this campaign via email. If it becomes necessary to hold an informative presentation on becoming an election officer, than that will be the next step in this process. I do believe email, phone calls, and general word of mouth may be adequate here.
3) Petition to have a referendum item on the ballot, statewide, for public financing to candidates in all races. Currently, Wisconsin has public financing only for select offices. See the chart on http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4773825 Public financing for these few offices draws funds from the tax check off, but the two states that are the most progressive in terms of public financing, Maine and Arizona, also include a tax add-on and other sources. Last year in February, I received a phone call from someone from Wisconsin Grassroots Network pertaining to a meeting in Madison about getting a measure on the ballot to overturn Citizens United. These ballot items don’t make much difference because Citizens United was decided by the United States Supreme Court, not the people. It is, unfortunately, not our decision to make, However, if we get these statewide groups, United Wisconsin, Wisconsin Grassroots Network, to get on board with moving toward become a state with exclusively publicly financed elections, we will have taken the money out of politics. After that, getting qualified candidates that, once elected, will represent the people and not corporations, will follow. But in order to get the item on the ballot statewide, and get people to vote for it, we have to take any notion of partisanship out of it. It is simply a move to take money out of politics. I know many Republicans as well as Democrats who are getting fed up with all of the money in politics, and all of the non-stop campaigning. One thing nearly everyone has in common is their distaste for campaign ads. With publicly financed elections, there are certain rules that must be followed in order to receive the public funding. There is less advertising, and big money campaign fundraisers are virtually non-existent. This is the answer! The boots on the ground work involves providing informative presentations, circulating petitions, collection of petitions and submitting them to the GAB. It is totally doable.