The GOP presidential ticket failed to carry Wisconsin even though native son Paul Ryan was the VP candidate. The state Republican party is wasting no time in proposing voting reforms that they claim would improve the process–all of which seem designed to depress voter turnout, especially from Democrats.
State Representative Robin Vos, the incoming Assembly Leader, has agreed to perhaps the most radical change, telling a local reporter that he would consider changing the state’s Constitution in order to get a voter ID law passed. The problem is that the Wisconsin Constitution explicitly guarantees the right to vote, and judges have repeatedly found that voter ID law passed by Republicans last year would create a “substantial impairment” of that right.
Vos is apparently undeterred. Since a constitutional amendment would take years to process, he wants to get a voter ID law passed before that. “Hopefully we can get a statute passed that would be in effect for the 2014 election or sooner and guarantee that every single vote counts, and people show that photo ID to vote,” he said.
This idea is just the latest that could potentially suppress voters. In the days just after the election, Governor Scott Walker suggested ending same-day voter registration.
Wisconsin has some of the highest voter turnout rates in the country in election after election. This past November more than 70% of the eligible population turned out. The high turnout has been attributed to the state’s same-day registration policy, allowing an unregistered voter (say, a college student or someone who’s recently moved to the state) to sign up to vote on the spot. The only other state with comparable voter turnout is New Hampshire, which also offers a same-day registration policy.
Walker says the policy creates “real problems” for poll workers. But since he made that statement, many poll workers have come out to tell him he’s wrong. In fact, the former head of the clerks association said it would be “more burdensome” if they got rid of the law.
There’s another proposal on the table as well. The incoming Republican state Senate leader, Scott Fitzgerald, wants to get rid of the nonpartisan retired judges who make up the Government Accountability Board and replace them with political appointees. That would mean the board that oversees elections in the state would become partisans. A local professor who’s written about the GAB said, “I think that’s about the worst idea I’ve heard this year.”
Even though the election is over, Wisconsin’s voting-rights advocates still seem to have a full plate of work ahead of them.