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“Wisconsin’s ‘War On Voting’ Leads To Real Consequences”: Thousands Of Wisconsin Voters Facing Disenfranchisement

Wisconsin’s April 5 primary is likely to be important for all kinds of electoral reasons, but the day will also be significant in terms of the voting process itself: it will be the first big test of the state’s ridiculous voter-ID law. Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed legislation to create the system in 2011, responding to a “voter fraud” scourge that did not exist, but following a series of legal disputes, this will be the first presidential election year in which the system is fully implemented.

For supporters of voting rights, this isn’t good news. A report from Pro Publica noted this week, for example, that the law requires Wisconsin’s Republican-run state government to run “a public-service campaign ‘in conjunction with the first regularly scheduled primary and election’ to educate voters on what forms of ID are acceptable.”

To date, it appears that public-service campaign has not happened and no money has been a set aside to educate the public. With literally hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters facing disenfranchisement, it’s a major problem officials are not even trying to fix.

It’s also not the only step backwards Wisconsin has taken on voting rights. MSNBC’s Zack Roth reported today:

A bill signed into law last week by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker could make it much harder for the poor and minorities to register to vote in the pivotal swing state just as the 2016 election approaches.

The Republican-backed measure allows Wisconsinites to register to vote online. But voting rights advocates say that step forward is massively outweighed by a provision in the bill whose effect will be to make it nearly impossible to conduct the kind of community voter registration drives that disproportionately help low-income and non-white Wisconsinites to register.

No other state, including states led entirely by Republican officials, has created a registration system that dismantled community-registration drives.

Project Vote noted this week, “Local and national group … joined together to show [Wisconsin] lawmakers that the proposed online registration system would not be available to all eligible electors, disproportionately impacting students, veterans, older individuals, low-income people and people of color. We explained that it is community registration drives that often register the very people unable to use online registration.”

The GOP-led legislature wasn’t willing to change the bill. Walker, naturally, signed it.

This won’t affect the state system in advance of the April 5 primary, but as Zack Roth’s report noted, the new policy “could well curtail voter registration ahead of the general election.”

In recent years, Wisconsin has been a competitive, battleground state for presidential candidates – President Obama won the state twice, even after Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan was added to the Republicans’ 2012 ticket – and will likely receive a lot of interest this fall, too. What’s more, the state is home to a key U.S. Senate race – incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) is facing a rematch against former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) – and the outcome will help determine which party controls the chamber in the next Congress.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 25, 2016

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Scott Walker, Voter ID, Voter Registration, Voter Suppression, Wisconsin Legislature | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Never Underestimate GOP Cynicism”: Those Who Think Sandy’s Effects Won’t Matter Because It Primarily Affected Blue States Should Think Again

For all the speculation about the effect of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath on the election, one important aspect has gotten surprisingly little attention: How many people will be unable to vote because of power outages, floods, and impaired transportation systems? How many will be deterred from voting because they are dealing with serious dislocations in their lives? And what new forms of Republican mischief will all this invite?

Other things being equal, President Obama seems to have been the winner so far because of his impressive handling of the crisis. Chris Christie surely helped on the image front.

But other things are not equal. Four days before the election, at least three million Americans are without power. And so are thousands of neighborhood polling places.

Bus and subway lines are not fully operating, and there are gas shortages, especially in New Jersey. Both factors raise obstacles to people getting to the polls.

Hundreds of thousands of people—conceivably more than a million—may not be able to vote in their usual polling place. Some may not bother to vote at all.

As always, lower-income voters, who tend to favor Democrats, have fewer options and backup plans than more affluent voters. Any competent political scientist will confirm that it’s always a challenge to persuade lower-income citizens that voting can make a difference in their lives. The aftermath of the storm is just one more obstacle to full participation.

Last-minute shifts in polling venues are both confusing to voters and to local election officials, many of whom are volunteers. People who registered may not show up on lists if they are voting outside their usual location, leading to more ballot challenges than usual, even without Republican skullduggery.

Some jurisdictions are printing up paper ballots as a fallback, but the preparations seem surprisingly lackadaisical. At the very least, all of this introduces new uncertainty and new opportunities for ballot challenges.

Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, passed after the 2000 election debacle, federal law requires local officials to permit provisional voting if there is some question about whether a citizen is entitled to cast a ballot. But provisional voting invites legal appeals, and God help us if the number of challenged ballots in a key swing state exceeds the margin separating the candidates. Worst case, we could see the courts getting involved, with ominous echoes of the Supreme Court’s theft of the 2000 election.

It may seem comforting to Democrats that most of the hardest-hit states are safely blue. But think again. Although Obama seems narrowly ahead in the projected electoral count, the popular vote seems to be almost a tie. To win it, Obama needs to roll up big margins in states deep blue like New York—where turnout could well be depressed. He would of course still be president if he won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote. But in terms of the national psychology (and his own self-confidence as a fighter), Obama would have more of the appearance of a mandate if he won the popular vote.

One of the hard hit states, Pennsylvania, is still close enough that Republicans are throwing money into it. At this writing, between 250 and 300 Pennsylvania polling places are still without power, along with 307,000 Pennsylvania citizens. On balance, any fallout from the storm that depresses turnout is not good for Democrats.

Mercifully, the talk from earlier in the week that a state might actually try to postpone Election Day has faded. It’s clear that only Congress has the right to set Election Day. If elections were not postponed during the Civil War, it’s unthinkable that they’d be postponed a week after a hurricane. Even The Wall Street Journal editorial page discouraged the idea of delaying the election (maybe because Obama’s lead is widening?)

But after what we’ve seen in the past several elections in Republican voter-suppression efforts, never estimate the cynicism of the GOP or its appetite for fishing in troubled waters. The best antidote to all of this is a big general turnout and a stormproof margin of Democratic victory.

 

By: Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, November 3, 2012

November 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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