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The Honest and the Dishonest

Nov. 28, 2012
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The biggest divide in politics in Wisconsin over the past two years hasn’t been between the left and the right. It’s been between the honest and the dishonest.

Republicans insist that’s not true. They claim there are just as many dishonest Democrats as there are dishonest Republicans.

Well, any Republicans who sincerely believe that will have the perfect opportunity to prove it in the coming year.

We’ll forget all the provable lies Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney told. We’ll even ignore the court decisions throwing out actions by Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican majority as illegal and unconstitutional.

Let’s start fresh right now with a topic both parties should agree is basic to democracy—the right to vote.

We take pride that voter participation in Wisconsin ranks consistently among the highest in the nation. An estimated 70% of state voters turned out on Nov. 6 to re-elect President Barack Obama and send Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate.

Many constituencies whose voting lags elsewhere—African Americans, Latinos and younger voters, for instance—turn out in far greater numbers here.

Milwaukee had an extraordinary 87% turnout. Republican Waukesha had an even greater turnout of 89%. But those “urban voters” were the ones Ryan blamed for the Republican defeat.



Walker’s Cure Is Worse Than the ‘Problem’ of High Voter Turnout

Republicans obviously need to become more inclusive and attract voters they’ve driven away from their party with anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-woman and homophobic political stands.

Instead, some Republicans advocate a brazenly dishonest, un-American solution—to simply make it more difficult for Wisconsinites who might support Democrats to vote.

They would expand upon two dishonest schemes Walker and legislative Republicans passed last session to try to disenfranchise legitimate voters.

The first was gerrymandering legislative districts to distort voting to favor Republicans for the next 10 years.

It succeeded. Even though Democrats got more votes than Republicans for Assembly candidates on Nov. 6, they ended up with only 39 victories, while Republicans held on to their majority.

Similarly, Republicans won six of 11 contested state Senate seats and an 18-15 Senate majority, even though Democratic Senate candidates received 9,400 more votes.

The second dishonest Republican attack on voting was passage of a voter ID law intentionally requiring specific IDs many Democratic-leaning voters—minorities, the elderly and students—do not possess. Two separate state courts have declared that law unconstitutional.

Days after Republicans lost the presidency and a U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin, Walker, speaking to a right-wing crowd at the Ronald Reagan Library in California, announced his next plan to reduce voting by Democrats—ending Election Day registration at the polls.

Election Day registration, legal in Wisconsin since 1976, is a major reason for the state’s high voter turnout. New voters, as well as anyone erroneously removed from voting rolls, can register at the polls.

In Milwaukee this year, about 54,000 people, or about 19% of those voting, registered on Election Day, according to City Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht.

What is Walker’s cover story for trying to reduce voting by eliminating Election Day registration? It’s a real Paul Ryan-style whopper.

The governor openly insulted older citizens who work at the polls by claiming they were not capable of handling the large number of voters who register on Election Day.

Albrecht said that simply was not true. In fact, top officials of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association—which represents 1,400 government clerks, including election officials—say that eliminating Election Day registration would create far more problems.

"It will make it more burdensome," stated Sun Prairie City Clerk Dianne Hermann-Brown, chair of the association's election communication committee. "It would be a logistical nightmare."

That’s because tens of thousands more voters would crowd clerks’ offices to register in the weeks preceding elections, when officials already are working full time on election preparations.

The federal government also would require additional voter registration at motor vehicle departments and welfare offices under a law Wisconsin is now exempt from since voters can easily register at the polls.

This holiday season, movie audiences are packing theaters to witness a refreshing and unusual sight—Republican politicians arguing for civil rights for African Americans in support of Republican President Abraham Lincoln and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.

The villains in the film are Democrats issuing dire warnings that the amendment could ultimately lead to voting not only by African Americans, but even by women.

We now know the two parties flipped positions in the 1960s, when Republican Richard Nixon designed a Southern strategy of opposing civil rights to attract racist whites angry over Democrats’ support of racial equality.

That cynical strategy was wildly successful, creating the solid Republican South that continues to this day.

If there are still any honest, decent Republicans left who believe everyone has a right to vote—and why shouldn’t there be?—it’s time for them to stand up for voter registration.

So far, the silence has been deafening.


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