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Voter Suppression Bills Target Early Voters, Seniors and the Disabled

Grothman continues Republicans’ voter suppression strategy

Aug. 7, 2013
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Here we go again.

A Republican legislator is circulating bills that would make it more difficult to vote in Wisconsin.

This time, state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) is trying to limit voting by early, in-person absentee voters and impose new requirements on those helping residents living in assisted living facilities to vote. A third bill would weaken big-money donors’ disclosure requirements.

“This is part of a larger and continuing effort on the part of Republicans to restrict voting by the people they don’t want to cast a ballot,” said Mike Browne, deputy director of the watchdog group One Wisconsin Now (OWN).

OWN found that despite the Republicans’ charges that widespread voter fraud was plaguing Wisconsin’s elections, fewer than two dozen people have been convicted of voter fraud since 2004. More than 14 million votes were cast during that time.

Despite the paltry 0.0000017% conviction rate, Republicans continue to spread the myth of “widespread voter fraud” and are pressing on with proposals that would solve this so-called problem. In reality, their solutions would merely disenfranchise voters who are more likely to cast ballots for Democrats.

That motivation became crystal clear when state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) stated that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have won Wisconsin last fall if the nation’s most restrictive voter ID had been in place on Election Day. When requested by OWN, Darling couldn’t provide documentation of the 200,000 illegally cast ballots that would have swung the election to the Republicans.

The voter ID requirement, authored by Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), is currently tied up in the courts and has not been implemented.


Big Donors Would Be Protected

Despite the fact that Democratic candidates for the state Assembly won almost 200,000 more votes across the state than their Republican rivals last November, Republicans have a commanding 60-39 majority in the state Assembly as a result of the GOP-drawn legislative map that kicked in last year. 

But the Republicans’ gerrymandered map won’t help Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the 2014 gubernatorial election, should he decide to run, since obviously it doesn’t affect statewide races.

That may be why Republicans have stepped up their attack on the right to vote.

Just before Memorial Day, Republican Assemblyman Stone had circulated a sweeping, 77-page bill that would implement a new version of voter ID, restrict voting rights, and weaken financial disclosure requirements, among other things. A pared-down version passed the Assembly on June 12 but the Senate hasn’t touched it.

Grothman’s bills, which he is circulating for cosponsors, take up where Stone left off and would:

  • Restrict in-person absentee voting before elections: Republicans had already shortened the timeframe for early, in-person voting, but Grothman would further limit it to weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and eliminate weekend balloting. The bill would also change the number of hours a municipal clerk’s office must be open from at least 24 hours per week to no more than 24 hours a week. Grothman would also allow representatives of the two “recognized political parties” to observe the receipt of the early ballots.

    Grothman told the Shepherd he wanted to make early voting hours standard around the state, since residents of small townships are more likely to travel far distances to the polls than residents of large cities like Milwaukee.

    President Barack Obama has successfully used early voting to ensure that inconsistent voters—such as low-income voters, minority voters, students and new voters—and those who cannot easily vote on Election Day can cast a ballot. Election workers, including officials in Milwaukee, encourage early voting as a way to reduce lines and confusion on Election Day. Last November, more than 36,000 Milwaukee residents voted early, up from 31,000 in 2008.

    “The Republicans’ strategy is to make it more confusing and difficult to vote,” Browne said. “There are people who Glenn Grothman doesn’t want to vote.”
  • Impose new requirements on absentee voting in residential facilities: Instead of providing a 24-hour notice, those helping residents of a nursing home or other residential facility to vote would have to give a 72-hour notice and post that notice online. Grothman said he’s heard “anecdotal evidence of abuses” of voting in residential facilities.
  • Weaken big donors’ contribution disclosure: Currently, campaigns must file finance reports that include the occupation and employer of those donating more than $100 per year. Grothman would increase that to $500 donors, thus removing that requirement from donors of up to $499 per year.

“Those are significant contributions,” Browne said.

In 2010, OWN filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board alleging that Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign violated the $100 reporting requirement more than 650 times in 2009 and 2010, with 659 donations totaling $234,920 that lacked employer information.

Grothman blamed the unions for his effort to raise the disclosure limit because the unions had attempted to boycott employers of big donors to Republican campaigns, which the senator called “horribly mean spirited.”


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