Wisconsin’s new Voter ID Law is among the more restrictive in the nation. So far there are some 24 new laws in fourteen states all designed to combat election fraud across the nation. But an independent study concluded that it takes 593 million honest votes in America to get 314 cases of voter fraud nationally. In Wisconsin during the 2010 election there was one single case, and that turned out to be a couple that mistakenly voted twice, somehow changing travel plans and forgetting they had voted absentee. There was no criminal intent at all in the single case brought forward and ultimately not even prosecuted.
One single case of fraud statewide and we get a new Voter ID law that as Struggles for Justice has already pointed out, brings what MSNBC Commentator Al Sharpton calls JIM CROW JR. to Wisconsin and the other thirteen states with this legislation. Fraud is NOT the reason for these laws appearing nationwide. Suppressing voters who traditionally vote in blue, more liberal and Democrat patterns IS.
We must ask just who are the people who would have the most difficulty obtaining a photo ID card that the new law requires:
First, people without a car who rely on foot travel and mass transit and so don’t have a driver’s license: translation: the poor, those people living in poverty and with people of color, Latinos and blacks who vote strongly Democratic being put in a tough spot.
Second, elderly people who do not and cannot easily get out much. Democrats are defending Social Security and Medicare. Senior citizens by polling lean toward Democrats.
Third, people who have criminal records and who may be in some cases felons. Here too, blacks are overrepresented in relation to their share of the total U.S. voting population. Black men are more likely to have served time in prison then to have finished high school or previously voted. That is in itself a big issue that needs to be addressed but that the nation is ignoring. The NAACP is doing fine work both on the Voter ID issue and this one.
We also must ask, what part of the voting population is least affected by this new law?Here we get largely white, more conservative, suburban and more affluent red area voters. They lean heavily Republican.
It is estimated by proponents of what are truly voter suppression laws that the groups targeted could see their vote reduced from previous levels by as much as six percent. Six percent is a good margin of victory in any race. This new law might be the difference maker in election after election to suppress democracy and elect fewer liberal Democrats.
The fundamental right of one man one vote, or universal manhood suffrage so enshrined in our republican form of government and now inclusive of African Americans, Latinos, Native-Americans and women is at stake here. This is not a small issue as is made out by those who favor such laws: Republicans. Scott Walker is smugly confident that the courts will turn back any legal challenges to what he has done in less than a year. What an assault on the dignity of working people and on citizens and their rights this has already been.
Cutting the vote for Democrats six percent is serious to partisans. But more importantly cutting the vote by six percent when a majority of potentially eligible and eligible voters do not vote as it is attacks the democratic process and punches it right in the teeth.
Both the League of Women Voters in Wisconsin and just yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin have filed suit. The first in a Madison circuit court and the ACLU looking to the State Supreme Court and likely a Federal case as the argument being made is that the Wisconsin Voter ID law now in effect statewide violates the Constitution of the United States. Struggles for Justice believes it does, and does so in markedly pernicious ways to take away such a fundamental right from vulnerable people in our state and so many others across the nation. This has now gotten the attention of Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, who was expected today to hold a news conference detailing plans to pursue cases against state laws that violate our Constitution. Push back on these restrictive laws is now apparent. Thank God.
Consider this: Wisconsin’s Voter ID law takes away registration and voting right at the polling place or what is called same day voting. This progressive practice has a long history and tradition going back to Fighting Bob La Follette, a Republican progressive influential in energizing democracy in the state in the opening years of the twentieth century: The Progressive Era. We are in a kind of pre-progressive Neo-Gilded Age America with corporations and bought off politicians beholden to those same corporations running our state and the nation. We’ve been here before. Newt Gingrich called the other day for the return of child labor and the repeal of laws that both guarantee an education to children and a childhood and promote good paying jobs for their parents to support them, We’ve not seen this much corruption and this kind of attitude since the Gilded Age!
Folks, remember the phone call Walker thought was from one of the Koch brothers who just got a big mining deal in Wisconsin under questionable conditions? Listening to the audio of that single phone call at many points has us saying in unison: watch Scotty jump, go spot go says Jane, run Mr. Koch run, see spots teeth. I think I see Dick coming up State Street with a hundred thousand people wanting to recall Scotty Walker. If you’re over 50 and learned to read that way this has great significance for our present predicament. Oh, spot no!
Voters in Wisconsin have to pay thirty dollars to get their voter ID. They may get it free but only if they ask for a free one by saying they have a right to it. Some voters might not know of this little trick. In nineteenth and twentieth century JIM CROW AMERICA this was a poll tax that is currently illegal under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It also violates the Constitution of the United States. Voters also have to produce a birth certificate that will cost you twenty more bucks in Wisconsin to obtain, or a valid passport as if elderly folks and the poorand black people in economically compromised communities have a passport and are going to the French Riviera or Rio this winter.
Everything about the new Voter ID law in Wisconsin and other states is all about restricting voter participation in elections and targeting those leaning toward liberals and Democrats, suppressing the vote.
In a vibrant democracy that works the laws should and have in the past pulled more people into voting and participating as active citizens. Forget the partisan angle that is so damaging to liberal Democrats. This law damages the very fabric of our democracy. It snatches its promise and realization for thousands of our citizen’s right here in this state and thousands more all around the nation in any other state enacting such undemocratic and restrictive laws.
Both Scott Walker and this Voter ID law must go in 2012! Recall Walker, and Struggles for Justice holds out hope that Federal courts will find these laws to be the unconstitutional acts of a partisan few to be null and void. Let’s return democracy to Wisconsin and the United States of America.