While a pending federal court case means voting today won’t require a photo ID, Scott Walker and his Republican Party haven’t abandoned their cynical attacks on our democracy.
High on Walker’s Tea Party to-do list when he took office was a coordinated attack on the right to vote, fueled by the Republican myth of voter fraud. Wisconsin’s history of fair elections and robust voter participation has always been a source of pride, as Wisconsinites take their civic duty seriously. Photo ID is merely a solution in search of a problem; after thousands of dollars and hundreds of staff hours spent on a witch hunt in 2008, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen found potentially three cases of election fraud that could have been prevented with voter ID — 3 in 3 million or 0.000001%.
That fact was confirmed by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman, who in April wrote in his decision striking down Walker’s photo ID law, “The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.” Adelman also wrote that, “In the present case, no evidence suggests that voter-impersonation fraud will become a problem at any time in the foreseeable future. As the plaintiffs’ unrebutted evidence shows, a person would have to be insane to commit voter-impersonation fraud.”
However, since Adelman’s decision there has been a single case of voter fraud exposed in the state — a Republican charged with voting for Scott Walker multiple times in the recall elections in 2012.
With his photo ID halted by the courts, Walker pursued other legislative means by which to erect barriers to the ballot box. Republicans have rolled back the number of early voting hours, restricted the ability of local governments to choose their own early voting hours in accordance with the needs of the community, and lengthened residency requirements for voting.
And in the wake of significant Republican losses in statewide races in November 2012, Walker even floated the idea of eliminating election-day voter registration while speaking at a Tea Party campaign event in California. Walker abandoned the plan only after the Government Accountability Board estimated that it would cost Wisconsin $14.5 million to eliminate election-day voter registration – nearly triple a preliminary estimate.
Not content with attempts to erect unnecessary and unconstitutional barriers to the ballot box, Scott Walker and his Republican party also sought to rig the game in their favor for years to come by hatching a rotten redistricting plot that allowed Republican legislators to choose their voters, instead of the other way around. Walker’s Republican party illegally gerrymandered Wisconsin districts in a way that allowed them to hold on to significant majorities in both houses, including a 61-39 majority in the Assembly, even as Assembly Democrats received some 200,000 more votes statewide.
In a federal court challenge to the illegal redistricting process, Wisconsin Republicans concealed evidence, withheld documents, and deleted computer files in an effort to cover their tracks, leading a panel of federal judges to conclude that “fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct” had likely occurred.
As a result of Walker’s illegal gerrymandering, Wisconsin is “not a level” playing field.
That’s according to an analysis published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in December 2012 that showed that in an “otherwise dismal year,” where Democrats statewide garnered substantially more votes, Republicans still profited from their unprecedented, illegal redistricting scheme. The paper found that a substantial majority of state Senate and Assembly districts favored Republicans — even though President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket received substantially more votes. According to the paper, “Until the next redistricting nearly a decade from now, the legislative and congressional playing field in Wisconsin is not a level one.”
But despite Scott Walker’s repeated attempts to rig the game in his favor and make it harder for seniors, students, and veterans to exercise their rights at the ballot box, voters will head to the polls today more enthusiastic than ever to choose a new direction for Wisconsin.