Wisc. GOP rushes to restrict voters ahead of recall elections

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 15:08 EDT
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Claiming they only wish to prevent voter fraud, Wisconsin Republicans are rushing a bill that would impose additional identification requirements on citizens who attempt to cast a ballot — all ahead of key recall elections that could see the GOP thrown from power in the state.

The new rules would in effect limit the numbers of Democratic voters, according to research (PDF link) carried out by New York University. The elderly, the poor and minority voters tend to lean Democratic, and also have the highest percentages of people without driver’s licenses or other photo IDs.

A valid voter registration card is already required to cast a ballot, and voters must go to their assigned polling places to be checked against the registry. Despite Republican claims of sprawling conspiracies to steal prior elections, virtually no evidence has been found to support their allegations.

Critics have compared the additional requirements to a “poll tax,” which has been roundly rejected by U.S. courts. Procuring photo identifications costs money in every state, and many require citizens to travel to a state office, stand for photographs and make payment in person.

Republicans in Wisconsin have been under tremendous rhetorical fire since Gov. Scott Walker attempted to push legislation that strips public sector union workers of their right to bargain for pay and benefits. Claiming the state was broke and the move was necessary, the state’s Republicans drew out a massive backlash by their actions.

The plan to place greater restrictions on voting would cost the state over $5 million to implement — during a time when leading Republicans claim Wisconsin is effectively broke. Critics say Wisconsin was not actually in such dire straits when Gov. Walker took office, and they point to a surplus of over $121 million that was effectively decimated by Walker’s $116 million tax cut for corporations.

The first round of recall elections in Wisconsin are set to begin in mid-July. If passed, the voter restrictions would take effect before that.

Republicans in 22 states are currently pushing proposals similar to the bill in Wisconsin.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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