Voter ID laws are an affront to democracy and Republicans are unscrupulous enough to do anything they can to implement them. Wisconsin is the latest battlefield, from which has emerged shocking confirmation that the GOP did indeed intend to disenfranchise Democratic voters.
Voter ID laws are the new civil rights battle, the preferred strategy for voter suppression and disenfranchisement. Because these laws disproportionately disenfranchise likely Democratic voters, their real objective is clear. Which brings us to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s Sen. Ron Johnson is running for his second term, facing former Sen. Russ Feingold. Most voters probably don’t know that Johnson played a pivotal role in protecting the state’s undemocratic voter ID law. (Hint: When you can use your NRA membership card as voter ID, but not your student photo ID, that’s a big clue that your state is trying to suppress Democratic votes.)
Wisconsin Republicans were betting on Democratic voters to have neither the time nor the money to challenge a ruling that can put an undue burden on anyone for whom it can be difficult to secure an acceptable form of ID, which includes many older, poor, disabled, and transgender voters, especially people of color.
Further: The standard of proof is very high in these cases. Plaintiffs must be able to prove the law was passed with the specific intent of suppressing voters.
And Wisconsin Republicans were reasonably feeling confident challengers couldn’t meet that threshold. But that’s because they weren’t counting on one of their own turning against them.
In a federal voting rights discrimination lawsuit against Wisconsin brought by liberal groups, the key witness is Todd Allbaugh, former chief of staff to then-State Sen. Dale Schultz.
Disclosing the details of a 2011 closed-door meeting, Allbaugh has testified that Republicans specifically wanted a voter ID bill to suppress votes and help Republicans win elections.
Allbaugh, who Hillary has commended for speaking out, said some Republican lawmakers — including Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and former Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, appeared downright “giddy” at the idea of suppressing votes in heavily Democratic areas like Milwaukee, home to many of the state’s black and Latino voters.
(He also described some Republicans, including Sens. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, and former Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, as “ashen-faced” and troubled by the suggestion.)
Normally, we count on the courts to resolve these civil rights disputes. But that’s where Republican obstructionism comes in — specifically, that of Wisconsin’s Sen. Johnson.
Scott Ross connected the dots in the Wisconsin State Journal, noting that Johnson’s obstructionism on a Seventh Circuit Appeals Court vacancy left the court “without an 11th member who could have broken the impasse” on the voter ID requirement.
A voter ID requirement was allowed to be enforced not because the full Seventh Circuit determined it did not disenfranchise legal voters. Instead, a law passed with the admitted purpose of providing political gain for political party and with demonstrable negative effects on legal voters was allowed to stand because the understaffed court could not break a tie on whether to rehear the case.
Now, after engaging in obstructionism that ushered in a voter ID law we know, care of Allbaugh, was designed to disenfranchise voters, Johnson is deliberately sitting on his hands again by refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
It’s time for voters to send him a message: Do your job, or face the consequences in November.
(AP Photo/Scott Bauer)