MADISON- During a marathon floor session marking the final meeting of the Wisconsin Assembly before the election year, Republicans legislators again ignored their campaign promises to focus on jobs and the economy, instead working through the night to pass a litany of extreme voter suppression laws. Among the bills passed by the Republican dominated State Assembly were an attempt to skirt a court order and implement Wisconsin’s unconstitutional voter ID law, new limits on in-person absentee voting, and drastic changes to Wisconsin’s recall law that would make recall of elected officials impossible in most circumstances.
“Republicans have unleashed an all-out assault on the constitutionally protected right to vote in Wisconsin ahead of the elections,” said United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck. “Instead of working to move our economy forward, the Republican majority in the State Assembly used the final hours of its legislative session to make drastic changes to voting laws in a nakedly political maneuver to stack the deck for their own partisan gain.”
Although the Wisconsin State Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to vote, Republicans in the State Legislature have proposed bill after bill aimed at making it more difficult to exercise that right. New barriers to voting would disproportionately impact low-income, minority, student, and senior voters, whom Republicans believe are less likely to favor their own candidates. Additionally, a state court has already blocked implementation of Wisconsin voter ID law on constitutional grounds, and arguments have just begun in a federal trial this week on grounds that the law violates the federal Voting Rights Act.
It is estimated that over 300,000 eligible voters in Wisconsin would be adversely affected by voter ID requirements.
The new restrictions placed on the hours local municipal clerks may remain open for in-person absentee voting comes at a time of increasing popularity for the practice among Wisconsin voters. In the election, more than 500,000 Wisconsin voters cast an in-person absentee ballot, according to the Government Accountability Board.
Finally, Republicans in the Assembly blocked a vote on Assembly Bill 185, a bill that would remove partisanship from the drawing of electoral boundaries and placing the responsibility for redistricting with the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau.
“Faced with significant statewide electoral losses, Assembly Republicans are now working to game the system by disenfranchising those voters they see as least likely to support their own candidates,” Subeck concluded. “With these bills, tens of thousands of Wisconsin voters – particularly low-income, minority, senior citizen, and student voters – would face new barriers to exercising their fundamental right to vote.”
United Wisconsin is an independent grassroots organization of citizens restoring the Wisconsin tradition of democracy in action. For more information, visit our website at www.unitedwisconsin.com.