Meanwhile, Back in Wisconsin: In the “If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It” Category, GOP Voter Suppression–Um!–Voter Fraud Bill Passes
You can’t script a scene like that with Senator Fred Risser being cut off by Senate President Ellis (Risser’s one of the longest serving legislators in the country). It looks like a scene from the floor of the Reichstag in the early 1930s. It makes Mr. Smith Goes to Washington look like a fantasy. And it has the whiff again of where’s your papers, boy? that President Obama eventually overcame.
Let’s face it, it’s the poll tax come north. This is voter suppression. And this time, it will disenfranchise not only black Democratic voters, but poor people, the elderly (some of whom–lord help us all–voted these Republican idiots into office), and students who still carry driver’s licenses from out of state but who are resident here in Wisconsin while they attend UW. (The Republicans particularly voice contempt for the Madison campus as though it is the equivalent of UC Berkeley during the Sixties. Both campuses are much quieter these days yall, though the tradition of activism remains here and there. The same contempt is displayed when they talk directly or indirectly (in codes) about Milwaukee, with its large African American community.) Along with Latinos and immigrants and new citizens, all of these groups vote, and many vote consistently Democratic. That’s why Walker, the Fitzgeralds and the rest of their claque were so insistent about instituting this uncalled-for legislation. And it’s not just happening in Wisconsin. It’s happening in all of the 28 states where Republicans control the governor’s chair and the legislature.
Before I go into the story, I just want to say that I have seen nothing yet of a grassroots movement that would counteract the effects of yet another Walker-Fitzgerald-inspired imposition on Wisconsin. A movement that would go into the hinterlands–to the hunters-fishermen-flag-waving areas–as well as the cities–to the hip-hop nation as well as the students–and help educate these groups about what to expect and how to fight it. A movement that would even help and encourage those to get a state ID card ($28.00 at your local DMV) and become legal. People needed to get started yesterday because this will impact the upcoming recalls. And not everyone has a computer in order to get the word. This needs to be a house-to-house, face-to-face movement in all communities and neighborhoods in order to counter misinformation and voter suppression. Since the Republicans cannot sustain a majority in fact, they will try to legislate it (or manufacture it) into existence.
Frankly, you need a state ID or driver’s license to even apply for a job, as well as a Social Security card. I scrounged and got my state ID when I was unable to renew my driver’s license. It was hard, but I did it, because I wanted to be legally a worker, a citizen and a voter in Wisconsin. For others with fixed incomes, this may not be immediately possible either. Twenty-eight dollars for someone may be a lot of money. (Even to get a low-income bus pass to travel to work is a lot of money.) However, it should not be an impossibility.
When the vote was finished, only five Democratic senators votes were on the record and protesters in the gallery shouted “shame, shame, shame” at the Republicans.
Some Democrats didn’t answer the chief clerk’s call for their vote, which ended up 19-5, with Democratic Sens. Tim Carpenter, Jon Erpenbach, Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch on record against the measure.
Republicans have been working for years to pass the plan. Former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the bill three times between 2002 and 2005.
Walker noted Thursday that he introduced a version of the bill 10 years ago when he was in the state Legislature. Walker said he will sign this bill into law Wednesday (May 25).
There was no reason in the world to institute a voter fraud bill here in Wisconsin. Absolutely none. Rick Ungar at Forbes Magazine.com provides the proof:
A study of the 2008 election conducted by the Wisconsin Justice Department has turned up just two instances of people “double” voting, six people who engaged in voter registration shenanigans and 11 ex-cons who violated the prohibition on felons voting.
In fact, there has been a sum total of 20 people charged with some form of voter fraud out of the millions of Wisconsin residents who voted in the 2008 election. And over half of them are already on voter denial lists as they are convicted felons.
This is hardly what one would call a justification to create a crisis of confidence in Wisconsin’s voting system– particularly when you consider that the program will cost Wisconsin taxpayers millions of dollars at a time when Governor Walker tells us things are so bad he had to end collective bargaining, deny schools the money they need to provide a basic education, and dramatically alter the retirement programs of state employees.
Yet, in response to this problem that is not a problem, the new law would require voters to present one of the following – a valid Wisconsin driver’s license, a passport, a military ID, a tribal identification or a student ID subject to certain limitations.
Once again, I am disturbed by the nastiness shown by the Republicans, which was evident during the legislative controversy over getting rid of collective bargaining. It’s not necessary, and it shows what bottomfeeders they really are. The disrespect is personal. It should never get to that level, but it has during this administration and legislative session. I really don’t think Democrats do this kind of strong-arming when they are in the majority. There is such a thing as courtesy, and I’ve seen Dems allow Republicans, when they are sure to lose, to have their say. I hope Dems will never sink to that level.
Nasty. But this nastiness won’t last too much longer.
While ostensibly written to curb voter fraud, the 25-page bill does not address the causes of the actual cases of fraud that have occurred in Wisconsin, which primarily involve votes cast by felons. This bill extends the length of residency before one may register to vote from 10 to 28 days, eliminates party-line voting, requires voters to sign the poll list, pushes back the deadline to get an absentee ballot to the Friday before the election, and most notably requires every voter to present a state driver’s license or a passport or a military or tribal ID or a naturalization certificate in order to vote. It would allow some student IDs to qualify, but notably not the ones that the University of Wisconsin issues.
Democrats have been quick to point out that this piece of legislation was being pushed through quickly due to the recall elections of Republican senators coming up in July. While the voter ID portion of the bill won’t become effective until January, there may be enough confusion at the polls to make for sloppy elections. Senator Kathleen Vinehout put it bluntly, “Rewrite the rules and you win the game, and that’s what’s been happening since January. Today we saw rewriting the rules about elections and about the rules about how the Senate operates.”
Humph. How long? as Martin King used to say. Not long. There is still much work to be done to bring down some of these guys, and news of the passage of this bill is not going to sit pretty with those who are still experiencing buyers’ remorse over Walker and the Republicans. Hope is not enough. People are going to have to get on their hind legs and kick.