State lawmakers in Wisconsin had to scramble last night, tackling pending bills at the last minute before the clock ran out on the legislative session. And for the most part, the Republican majority did what it wanted to do – including cracking down on early-voting opportunities for Wisconsin residents.
The debate on ending weekend voting in the run-up to elections contained some of the most heated exchanges of the day. Democrats decried the limits on early voting as the latest effort by the GOP to make it harder for minorities, veterans, the elderly and students to vote.“Democrats want to fix problems. Republicans want to fix elections,” an array of Democrats said in speech after speech.
The measure was approved along party lines and is now headed for Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) desk. It is widely assumed he’ll sign the bill into law.
In January, a bipartisan White House commission, led in part by the Romney/Ryan campaign’s chief counsel, urged state policymakers to expand early voting in order to reduce waiting times and make elections more accessible. Wisconsin Republicans have chosen to do the exact opposite – this new bill eliminates weekend voting altogether, and will limit early voting to weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
This follows similar efforts from Wisconsin GOP lawmakers in 2011, when Republicans, for no apparent reason, cut early voting from three weeks to two.
During yesterday’s debate, proponents of the early-voting crackdown said their goal was to create more uniform standards, but even some Republicans found this impossible to believe.
State Sen. Dale Schultz, the only GOP lawmaker in Wisconsin to vote against the new voting restrictions, was quite candid on the matter in an interview over the weekend.
In an appearance on the Devil’s Advocate radio show (The Mic/92.1 FM) last week, Schultz told hosts Mike Crute and Dominic Salvia that his party’s support for a series of election law changes was indefensible.“I am not willing to defend them anymore,” he explained when Salvia asked why Republicans sought to limit the number of voting hours a municipality could offer. “I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.”
As of last night, among Wisconsin Republicans in the legislature, he’s the only one.