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Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012

Issue of the Week: Republicans Want To Pick the Voters—Not Let the Voters Pick Them

Plus: Hero of the Week

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How predictable was Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to end Election Day voter registration?

Entirely too predictable, unfortunately, since it is consistent with his agenda to limit voting in Wisconsin.

Walker’s proposal, now being drafted by state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and state Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), is just the latest attempt by the Republican Party to restrict voting rights so that only Republican-friendly voters are allowed to cast ballots.

In the last legislative session, Republicans passed the most stringent voter ID law in the country. It’s so harsh that two judges found that it violated the Wisconsin constitution, which limits lawmakers’ power to restrict voting rights.

That’s a very important—and wise—element of our state constitution, because it serves as a check on legislators’ power to pick and choose who may vote in an election.

Unfortunately, Republicans don’t seem to have much respect for the constitution—or, for that matter, the state’s voters.

In addition to the voter ID law, Republicans have limited the power of your vote by politically redistricting the state so that they can control both chambers of the state Legislature without getting a majority of the votes. While Democratic candidates like President Barack Obama and Sen.-elect Tammy Baldwin won healthy majorities statewide, and almost 200,000 more votes were cast for Democrats in legislative races, Republicans ended up with 60% of the seats in the Assembly and an 18-15 majority in the state Senate. Similarly, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost by more than six points to Obama statewide, but carried a majority of congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts across Wisconsin.

Is that fair?

Republicans are also taking aim at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, because the board, made up of nonpartisan retired Wisconsin judges, made too many decisions that undercut Republicans’ attempts to skew elections in their favor. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he’d work to replace the board, made up of retired judges, with political appointees.

Republicans need to stop their assault on voting rights, not only to adhere to the state constitution but to show respect for the state’s voters. While it may be tempting for Republicans to become drunk on power when they hold the governor’s office and both houses of the state Legislature, it isn’t smart to continually attack one of this country’s most precious rights just because they have the power to do so. Instead of seeming like good stewards of our democratic institutions, Walker and his fellow Republicans’ disregard for voting rights merely makes them look opportunistic, desperate and un-American.

Heroes of the Week: Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative Volunteers and Supporters

Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative (MHVI) sprouted from Dennis Johnson and Mark Foreman’s project with the Milwaukee Veterans for Peace. These men reached out to homeless vets to identify their needs, gain their trust and help connect them with much deserved VA benefits and other beneficial programs. This initiative grew to include a food pantry, weekly breakfast and a home-support program, and in 2008, Veterans for Peace transferred the project’s assets and operations to a new nonprofit, MHVI (P.O. Box 341236, Milwaukee, WI 53219). 

MHVI’s mission is to help homeless and at-risk veterans reach and maintain their highest levels of independence, with their motto being, “We don’t leave our wounded behind.” The food pantry serves more than 200 people weekly, the free breakfast feeds 300 people every Thursday (both held at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 5500 W. Greenfield Ave., where MHVI maintains a small office) and food is delivered to about 45 vets every week who are physically unable to get to the pantry. MHVI also provides furniture, household items, clothing, toiletries, eyeglasses and more to veterans once they do finally get a home. MHVI has helped more than 750 veterans and their families since its founding and this almost entirely volunteer-run program continues to locate and aid veterans on the streets of Milwaukee.

MHVI is always looking for volunteers to help organize donation drives for food, clothing and household items. In addition, donations of non-perishable food items and warm clothing such as coats, hats, socks and gloves, as well as sleeping bags and backpacks, are needed. For those interested in volunteering or donating, please visit neverhomeless.org or contact Alex Johnson at 414-763-5596 or alex@neverhomeless.org

MHVI will be holding a fundraising reception Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, at the Miller Inn (MillerCoors Complex) to raise awareness about the needs of homeless veterans and the services this nonprofit provides. Snacks, beverages and music will be provided. The event is open to the public with a suggested donation of $25 at the door.