Home / News / Expresso / Issue of the Week: Democracy Should Begin at Home
Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011

Issue of the Week: Democracy Should Begin at Home

Plus Hero of the Week

Google+ Pinterest Print
Yet another dictator is being toppled to expand democracy throughout the Middle East. That's great news.

But what about democracy right here in Wisconsin?

In just a few short months in power, Republicans have systematically attacked the constitutional rights of Wisconsin citizens.

The requirement to keep the doors of the state Legislature open to the public? That was violated when a legislative committee called a meeting with less than two hours' notice to pass Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining bill.

The right to assemble and speak freely and be treated equally under the law? Ask members of public employee unions if they're treated differently than non-represented employees.

The right to vote? Ask the newly disenfranchised voters who lack a photo ID if they're able to cast a ballot without obstacles deliberately put in their path.

The answer to that last constitutional question may come as a result of a planned lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, which will charge that the Republican-backed voter ID law violates the state constitution.

The Wisconsin Constitution allows laws to be passed regarding residency, registration, absentee voting, and voting rights for felons and the mentally ill. The League will argue that the constitution does not allow the Legislature to enact a photo ID requirement.

We think they have a very valid point. The creators of the state constitution have attempted to limit the power of the Legislature to pick and choose who is qualified to vote. Over the years, Wisconsin has made voting more accessible to more people, including African Americans, women and those who want to register to vote on Election Day. As a result, the state has one of the highest voter participation rates in the nation—without any proof of widespread or coordinated voter fraud.

Republicans have hungered for a voter ID law for years so that voters who support Democrats would be discouraged from casting a ballot. That's no way to uphold the state constitution—or expand democracy here or abroad. But one guess as to how the four corrupt state Supreme Court justices, led by David Prosser and Michael Gableman, will vote.

Heroes of the Week: Days of Caring Volunteers

Living paycheck to paycheck, or working longer hours just to make ends meet, often leaves little free time for personal activities, let alone volunteerism. For those inclined to lend a helping hand but who are unable to make a huge time commitment, the United Way's Days of Caring (Sept. 11-23) campaign makes it possible to make a big difference in a short amount of time.

With Days of Caring, busy individuals can become involved with local nonprofit agencies to address the community's needs. Activities include building playgrounds, reading to children and helping elderly adults with outdoor chores—most projects require just a few hours' time. Readers interested in doing a one-off good deed or getting more actively involved with the many organizations working for change in Milwaukee should visit www.unitedwaymilwaukee.org/Volunteer or call Karissa Kleven at 414-263-8160.

UW-Madison Honors Local Hero Vel Phillips


On Sunday, UW-Madison held a dedication ceremony during which it honored Milwaukee civil rights leader Vel Phillips, who in 1951 became the first African-American woman to graduate from the university's law school. As a tribute to the Wisconsin leader who has done so much to blaze new trails for women and African Americans, the university renamed one of its residence facilities Vel Phillips Hall. Among her many achievements, Phillips was the first woman and African American elected to the Milwaukee Common Council, a key force against housing discrimination, and Wisconsin's first female secretary of state.