There’s been a fair amount of attention lately on Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) newly imposed voting restrictions in Wisconsin, and for good reason. The governor’s latest measures appear to have only one purpose: making it more difficult for his constituents to participate in their democracy.
But last week’s new restrictions weren’t the end of Walker’s efforts. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Election observers could stand a few feet from voters and poll workers, under one of a series of election bills Gov. Scott Walker signed in private Wednesday.The law would allow observers to stand 3 to 8 feet from the table where voters announce their names and addresses and are issued voter numbers, or from the table where people register to vote.
Consider a hypothetical scenario. A college student in Madison stops by a table to register to vote, and as she goes through the process, an elections “observer” stands 36 inches away, just to ensure the rules are being followed to his satisfaction. Months later, when she goes to her local voting precinct, another “observer” – again standing just 36 inches away – will oversee the process as she picks up her ballot.
This scenario will now be legal in Wisconsin.
Why in the world would GOP policymakers in Wisconsin consider this a good idea? According to the article, “Walker’s office said that the law will safeguard the fairness of elections by ensuring observers can see how they are being conducted.”
Just think, Wisconsin not only held generations of fair elections without “observers” hovering around voters, but has enjoyed one of the highest voter-participation rates in the country. Little did state residents know how flawed their system was.
Democratic opponents of the proposal warned of intimidation, voter harassment, and according to one state senator, observers “breathing down the necks of poll workers.”
They did not, however, have the votes to stop the measure.
All of this is the latest in a series of election-related policies approved by Wisconsin Republicans. In 2011, for example, they curtailed early voting statewide.
Last week, Walker went further, curtailing early voting even further, eliminating weekend voting and ending evening voting after 7 p.m.
There was no reason to impose these new voter-suppression policies and the rationales proponents came up with were easily discredited.