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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Republican War on Voting

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Somehow Republicans continue to successfully divert public attention from Wisconsin's leading role in a coordinated right-wing plot to deny the right to vote to millions of American citizens.

The Republican Party's war on democracy has been aided and abetted by a shallow media, which would prefer to cover trivia instead of serious, even historic, constitutional issues.

Last week Dane County Judge David Flanagan took the first step toward rolling back the most vicious attempt to disenfranchise people of color, students and senior citizens since hooded terrorists used to hang African Americans from trees. On Monday, in a separate case, Dane County Judge Richard Niess went even further than Flanagan by issuing a permanent injunction halting Wisconsin's voter ID law as unconstitutional.

The most important part of Flanagan's temporary injunction halting “the single most restrictive voter eligibility law” in the country was evidence that Wisconsin's photo ID law would deny the right to vote to more than 220,000 constitutionally qualified voters in the state.

Noting that the disenfranchisement disproportionately targeted minorities, the poor and the elderly, Flanagan wrote: “The scope of the impairment has been shown to be serious, extremely broad and largely needless.”

However, the damning evidence of an un-American assault on the nation's democratic principles wasn't what most of the media concentrated on for days. It was the fact that Judge Flanagan's name was among more than a million signatures turned in to the state on petitions seeking the recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

On a scale of actual significance, that ranks right up there with a high-school student's surprise at seeing his teacher dancing in a bar.

People who become judges do not lose their rights as citizens. Judges still have the right to vote and to sign petitions. It is no secret judges are involved in politics. They run for election. And many first got their jobs through political appointment by the governor.

Flanagan did. He was appointed to the bench by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.

That hasn't stopped Republicans and their media mouthpieces from condemning Flanagan for presiding over a case in which Walker, as governor and a leading force behind the voter ID law, is named as a defendant.

But what Flanagan thinks about Walker as an individual has nothing to do with his duties as a judge. Judges preside over cases every day involving people they probably don't like very much. Defendants are accused of horrific crimes.

The job of a judge is to make decisions based upon the law. That's a concept Republicans increasingly have abandoned. Today Republicans want judges who agree with them politically, regardless of what the law says.

Republican Hypocrisy

It's been hilarious to hear Republicans attacking Flanagan for an alleged conflict of interest for committing an act of citizenship.

These same Republicans strongly support clearly corrupt Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who decided multiple cases argued by a law firm that Gableman failed to disclose had provided him with perhaps $100,000 or more in free legal services.

Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, a former Republican legislative leader, even ran for re-election promising to support Walker's right-wing agenda.

Apparently, it's not unethical for a judge to have political views as long as they are right-wing views that allow Walker and Republican legislators to violate the law any time they want.

Lost in the silly media sideshow over the judge was the important injunction that ultimately could derail a coordinated national campaign to destroy voting rights—a campaign funded by Walker's right-wing pals David and Charles Koch.

Because of the media's failure to report the big picture, few Americans realize just how drastically democracy is being dismantled. Voting restrictions were passed by Republicans last year in 12 states—Wisconsin's photo ID law was only the worst.

You still hear otherwise sensible people say: “What's the big deal about showing a photo ID to vote? Everybody I know has one.”

I used to wonder how Wayne Newton could be popular since everybody I knew couldn't stand the guy. Then I realized everybody I didn't know must really like him.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law examined the voting restrictions passed last year and concluded that more than 5 million qualified voters could be turned away from the polls in 2012.

The laws brazenly target certain voters. Overwhelmingly affected, of course, are African Americans and Latinos, whose lives and concerns Republicans routinely treat with contempt and racial stereotyping.

But that's not all. The votes of the elderly, strongly opposed to Republican assaults on Social Security and Medicare, suddenly aren't welcome in Republican America, either.

And Republicans certainly want to discourage voting by snobby college students who aspire to be well educated just like that uppity President Barack Obama.

As documentation of the enormous, premeditated disenfranchisement mounts, even the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court may well be forced to uphold the constitutional right to vote.

There's nothing conservative about destroying democracy.