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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Democrats Slam Walker’s Voter Suppression Bill

Part of GOP’s national strategy to shrink the electorate

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Local and national Democrats are trying to strike back at new restrictions on voting in Wisconsin and elsewhere, charging that Republicans are suppressing the vote to increase their chances of winning in the mid-term elections.

The new voting restrictions in battleground states—including Wisconsin—are part of a coordinated national strategy, argued Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), on a conference call with reporters on Monday.

“This is something we’ve been seeing percolating for quite some time,” Elleithee said. “They’re just getting more brazen about it.”

Elleithee cited a statement Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus—a Wisconsin native and huge ally of Gov. Scott Walker—made to Politico that “We’ve got a midterm party that can’t lose, and we’ve got a presidential party that’s having a hard time winning.”

Elleithee said the GOP is trying to roll back voting rights around the country because, as Priebus admitted, they only win in low-turnout elections, such as midterms. That’s when the electorate typically skews older and whiter.

“This is an attempt by the Republican Party to shrink the electorate because they know when the electorate is large, they lose,” Elleithee said. “When the electorate is smaller, they win. It is crass. It is purely political. It is undemocratic.”

In response to Republicans’ attacks on voting rights, the DNC has launched a “voter expansion” project to help register voters, help them cast a ballot and ensure that ballots are accurately counted.

 

New Early-Voting Restrictions

In Wisconsin, Walker partially upheld the new restrictions on weekend voting, putting an end to the popular get-out-the-vote strategy for urban and African American voters who can’t make it to the polls on Election Day or during weekdays. The result will be longer, slower lines at the polls and more hassles for voters. He vetoed a provision that would limit early voting to 45 hours per week.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other leaders blasted Walker’s new voter suppression bill.

“It defies the history of this country that we have these attempts to make it more difficult and more limiting for people to vote,” he said during a press conference last week.

The progressive watchdog group One Wisconsin Now hinted that it may sue to halt the new restrictions.

Walker “is aiding and abetting the fraudulent manipulation of the rules on voting being perpetrated by the Republican-controlled Legislature,” the group said in a statement. “This fight is far from over. It may be Gov. Walker’s signature on the bill now, but this fight will end when a judge signs an order declaring this latest Republican attack on voting unconstitutional.”

Also up in the air is the state’s voter ID bill. In 2011, Wisconsin Republicans had passed the country’s most stringent voter ID requirements in the country, which haven’t been fully implemented because the law is being challenged in the state Supreme Court and in federal court. Walker said that he would call a special session of the Legislature if the bill is struck down before the midterm election, when he will be on the ballot.

Republicans have pushed for voter ID laws for years even though numerous studies by nonpartisan investigators have found no evidence that our elections are affected by widespread or coordinated voter fraud. Likewise, the small numbers of individual cases of voter fraud would not have been halted by the state’s pending voter ID restrictions.

Instead, voter ID would have a negative impact on traditionally infrequent or Democratic voters—citizens who vote in force in high-turnout elections, such as the ones Priebus has admitted the Republicans cannot win.