Wisconsin Recall Elections a Sure Thing, but New ID Law May Undercut Anti-Walker Vote
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Wisconsinites' efforts to protect democracy -- in the workplace and through the ballot -- are rapidly escalating on two key fronts. The state will soon witness major election and legal battles to combat Walker-supported laws limiting the rights of public workers and restricting voting booth access. Laws passed in 2011 virtually eliminate public-employee bargaining rights and restrict voting to those with approved IDs, which could potentially disenfranchise tens of thousands of state residents.
"First you take away workers’ rights, then you change the laws so that it’s hard for them to vote you out of office," said Scot Ross, director of One Wisconsin Now, a progressive media-focused group.
On Tuesday, the United Wisconsin coalition of labor and the Democratic Party delivered petitions --
Walker is expected to face a Democratic opponent sometime this spring. His lieutenant governor and four Republican senators are also likely to face recall votes.
Only two governors have been recalled in U.S. history, but Walker’s high unfavorability ratings -- 58% of Badger State residents support his recall- -- suggest that his head could become the third to roll.
Lawsuit Against Voter ID Bill Begins
The League of Women Voters’ lawsuit against Wisconsin’s voter identification law -- described by Wisconsin Common Cause director Jay Heck as “the most restrictive, blatantly partisan and ill-conceived voter identification legislation in the nation” -- will open this week before a Dane County judge.
“We saw labor protests of unprecedented size and intensity over limiting their voice as workers,” observed Frances Fox Piven, co-author of three works on the uniquely restrictive character of the U.S. system of voting. “And then [protesters] were greeted with a law to limit their power electorally, too.”
Among the groups who will find the new law burdensome are sectors of the population who lack photo IDs and the means to easily obtain it. That would include 23% of elderly Wisconsinites, 59% of Latina women, 55% of African-American men overall and 78% of African American men who are 18 to 24 years old.
As in other states, the Wisconsin Republicans felt no obligation to present proof that voter-impersonation fraud -- the supposed target of the legislation -- actually takes place in more than a tiny handful of cases. As the New York Times reported,
The Brennan Center [of New York University Law School] argues that the type of fraud that such laws are intended to combat -- impersonation -- is extremely rare. The South Carolina State Election Commission “knows of no confirmed cases of voter identification fraud, defined as a person presenting himself to vote as someone he is not,” Chris Whitmire, a spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Federal records “show that only 24 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005,” according to “The Politics of Fraud,” a Project Vote report written by political scientist Lorraine Minnite.
But the extreme rarity of this form of potential fraud has seldom been stressed in corporate media accounts. Most stories on the issue simply present statements and counter-statements by the two major political parties, with no examination of the evidence offered to the public.
A number of Wisconsin Democratic legislators marked the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday by appealing to the federal Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder to take action against the state’s new voter ID law.