Three years ago, Republican policymakers in Wisconsin, for no apparent reason, decided it was a little too easy for state residents to vote. With control of the legislature and the governor's office, GOP officials cut early voting statewide
Yesterday, Gov. Scott Walker (R) helped finish the job
, curtailing early voting even further, privately signing new restrictions into law.
In the early-voting measure, Walker used his partial veto powers -- the most powerful in the nation -- to nix language restricting early voting hours in Milwaukee and other cities to 45 hours a week while leaving in place a provision to prohibit early voting on weekends. [...] Under the legislation as rewritten by Walker, early voting in clerk's offices could take place solely on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. but would not face the additional limit of 45 hours per week.
To clarify, state Republican lawmakers eliminated
weekend voting, eliminated early voting at night, and mandated that communities limit early voting to 45 hours a week. Walker signed the first two provisions into law, while scrapping the third.
That's not exactly comforting to voting-rights advocates -- the elimination of weekend voting and evening voting were more important than the 45-hour cap.
The question that remains unanswered, meanwhile, is how in the world Wisconsin Republicans can defend these new voting restrictions. By all appearances, Walker yesterday agreed to help solve a problem that doesn't exist.
Dave Weigel had a good item
on this last night.
The 2012 election went incredibly smoothly in Wisconsin. Starting on Oct. 21, two weeks before the end of the election, voters could show up to early-voting sites and be done with their annual civic duty. Not registered? You could do that in person. Busy all week? Show up on Saturday or Sunday. The ease of the thing helped push Wisconsin turnout to 73.2 percent of eligible voters, up from 72.4 percent in 2008, the second-highest in the country. (Damn your eyes, Minnesota!) This was clearly a problem, and it had to be fixed.
The sarcasm is clearly justified. If Wisconsin's voting system has been one of the nation's finest, the state has short voting lines and high voter participation, and there haven't been any problems with fraud or abuses, the only credible reason to make sweeping changes is to make it deliberately more difficult for the state's residents to participate in their own democracy.
I'm reminded again of state Sen. Dale Schultz, the only Republican in Wisconsin to vote against
the new voting restrictions, was quite candid
on explaining what his GOP colleagues have done.
"I am not willing to defend them anymore," Schultz said of his fellow Republicans during a recent radio interview. "I'm just not and I'm embarrassed by this."