Thursday, March 20, 2014


On an almost purely partisan vote, the Wisconsin State Legislature just passed three bills designed to prevent countless numbers of citizens from exercising our most cherished political right--VOTING!! The first drastically limits extended voting hours into the night and weekends. The second allows "election observers," to stand as close as three feet from people registering to vote or picking up their ballots. (Current law stipulates that the chief inspector of elections or the municipal clerk designate those areas.) The third would permit those "observers" to come from any place within the county limits of the polling place, whereas they now must reside in the same municipality or ward. The lone Republican dissenter was Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center, who is not planning to run for reelection. "I am not willing to defend them.[i.e., his party's blatantly anti-democratic
measures designed to disenfranchise tens of thousands of legitimate voters, especially those residing in Dane, Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha counties>. I'm just not , and I'm embarrassed by this.." It's "just sad when a political party has lost so much faith in its ideas that it's pouring all of its energy into election mechanics," he continued ." We should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote."

The sponsor of these particular abominations--Republican Senator Glen Grothman of West Bend--disingenuously asserts that "it is important that we do something toward establishing uniformity for early voting around the state." He and the rest of the Republican caucus self-righteously protest--with their usual  disdain for reality and truth--that their only goal is to promote "fairness," because rural and small-town areas don't have the money or the ability to hold extended in-person absentee voting hours. ("Fairness" seems to have superseded--or at least supplemented-- "honesty" as the operant Republican virtue>) The rest of us understand that "fairness" and "honesty" are both euphemisms for disenfranchising large numbers of potential Democratic voters--minorities, college students, the elderly, the homeless, the poor, and inner-city residents in the state's largest municipalities. As the Democratic opposition rightly insists, the proper role of the legislature ought to be to expand voting opportunities, not restrict them. Even if their rationales for these measures are sincere, why should urban voters have to conform to the unfamiliar rhythms of life and work in other parts of the state? Democratic Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee hit the nail right on the head when she charged that "it screams of backward-thinking mentality, all the way back to Jim Crow and you ought to be ashamed." It is an attempt to destroy the work of 225 years of American political history, whose central theme has been to expand the electorate from a handful of propertied white males to all adult citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious belief, socioeconomic class, or political persuasion. That history has essentially been a refutation of the arrogant utterance of John Jay, our first Attorney-General and later Supreme Court Justice: "The people who own the country ought to run it." The people who "own the country" today are too devious and savvy to openly espouse Jay's rhetoric, but their actions graphically betray their ideology.

For those who have difficulty recalling the sordid details of the  nefarious Great Purge of 2012, I suggest consulting my post of September 27, 2012 entitled "Voter Repression II," as well as the definitive The Truth About Voter Fraud," published by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice. For a more up-to-date information, please check out "" It provides information, statistics, and analysis on the various types of voter fraud, and on the "Voter ID Laws" of more than 20 states. It demonstrates how these statutes are crafted to prevent low-income families, students, seniors, and ethnic minorities from exercising their franchise. They have found just 13 cases of in-person voter impersonation out of 649 million votes cast in general elections between 2000 and 2010. Moreover, 12 percent of voting-age citizens do not have a valid form of state ID. To obtain a "free ID," they need a certified birth certificate, which costs from $10 to $45 depending on the state, a passport which costs $85, and certified naturalization papers which cost $19.95. This highly informative website also reveals that electoral "fraud" includes intimidation, vote buying, misinformation, misrecording of votes, misuses of proxy votes, destruction/invalidation of ballots, and tampering with electronic voting machines.

Fortunately for the integrity of our democratic political system, the coldly-calculated purge of 2012 was only sporadically successful. That it was not more devastating was primarily due to two interrelated efforts. The first was a massive "get out the vote" campaign spearheaded by the ACLU, NAACP, LWV, and a host of other progressive organizations. The other was the success of these organizations and the Department of Justice in convincing some courts to issue "stays" against " laws already enacted by Republican-dominated state legislatures. It is an absolute certainty, however, that they are gearing up for an even more ferocious assault  during the current election season, especially since the Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, has "greased the wheels" by eliminating most of the enforcement machinery mandated by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

All of the nefarious laws enacted prior to the 2012 elections are still on the books, and the "stays" granted in Wisconsin, South Carolina, and other states could conceivably be vacated by other courts.  Voting restrictions like those just instituted in the Badger State are of a different--and more insidious-order because they directly attack democracy itself. They are cynically intended to obfuscate the details concerning when and where and how voting can take place. Rather than "levelling the playing field"---which is the root meaning of "democracy"--they are designed to damage or destroy the "playing field" itself. It is horrendous enough to discriminate against individual voters, but it is an offense of even greater magnitude to deliberately subvert or destroy the very institutions that make it viable The real purpose of challenging individuals by invoking baseless objections is to foment arguments and delays that will frustrate those in line, thereby reducing turnout. They " eat up" already foreshortened time, call into question the legitimacy of the registration and voting processes, and discourage people who have already constricted voting time, due to work or class schedules, childcare limitations, or physical disabilities. In one Ohio precinct in 2012, the actual casting of ballots was not completed until 4:00 am, even though no one was admitted to the premises after the appointed closing time of 7:00 pm. < And why do we continue to designate Tuesday--in the middle of the work and school week--as election day? That may or may not have made sense in the late 18th century, in an agrarian society with primitive communications, and a miniscule electorate composed almost entirely of people with generous leisure time. Today, it is either the dead hand of tradition or a deliberate desire to prevent a lot of people from having sufficient opportunity to cast their ballots. You decide! >

And what is the point of allowing poll watchers to "get in the face" of minorities, the elderly, young people, the handicapped, pregnant women or women trying to keep their pre-school children from running wild, while Mommy tries to concentrate on making decisions that will directly affect their day-to-day lives? "In your face" challenges can easily lead to confrontations--verbal or even physical-that may require intervention by police and security personnel. All that brouhaha will almost certainly disproportionately affect the physically and emotionally vulnerable. It may render them too fearful of experiencing a similar trauma or just disgusted and discouraged. The 1965 VRA explicitly forbid intimidation and interference in the act of voting, but even before Shelby penalties were relatively innocuous and enforcement sporadic Members of "True the Vote," a spinoff of the Tea Party, have  bragged that their actions were calculated to make the voting experience itself like "driving and seeing the police following you."

The ultimate goal  of all these tactics, according to Charles Pierce on, is to make voting "inconvenient," and to make targeted voters "nervous about  moving through the various steps needed to comply." The solution to "the problem of the braver voters who navigate the new landscape" is to "knock them off the rolls".....or simply to get in their faces at the polls and intimidate them directly."


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