Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Death of Democracy

Today Governor Walker signed into a law a bill that will make it significantly harder for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents to vote.

Republicans have been positioning this law as protecting the integrity of the vote.  However the reality is that voter fraud in Wisconsin is not, and has not, been a problem.

Let's take a minute to look at the facts around voter fraud. Saturday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out that President George W. Bush made voter fraud a priority for enforcement, so the U.S. Justice Department went to work on enforcing it.  From 2002 to 2005, the Journal reported, 55 people were convicted nationwide of voter fraud.  That's barely one per state.

In 2008 Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm formed the Election Fraud Task Force.  This task force investigated 12 counties in Wisconsin including Dane and Milwaukee CountiesAfter 2 years of investigations the task force identified 20 cases of voter fraud in the 2008 election.

The DOJ and Milwaukee County prosecutors charged 11 felons for voting, six people for voter registration misconduct and two people for voting twice, according to a DOJ statement.

A 2007 study released by Brennan Center for Justice revealed that potential voters are unlikely to be found committing voter fraud. “It’s more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls,” the study’s authors wrote.

The reality is that even Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's task force has shown that voter fraud is not a significant problem in Wisconsin.  This bill solves a problem that doesn't exist.  In the mean time it makes it significantly harder for certain groups of people to vote.

Who does this bill effect?

The UW Wisconsin system has 173,000 students in it, that will no longer be able to use their student ID to vote.  They will either have to travel back to their home town and vote there, or go get a Wisconsin Driver's License or State ID with their current address on it to vote.  For many students moving is an annual event, so every year they will have to go get a new ID with their current address on it so they can exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Is preventing less than 2 dozen fraudulent votes worth making it harder for 173,000 students to vote?

Who else will be affected by this bill?  Good question, let's see.

Only 25 percent of African Americans and 34 percent of Latinos in Milwaukee County have valid licenses, compared to 71 percent of young white adults elsewhere in the state, according to a 2005 report from the Employment and Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  This group is also one of the most transient in the state, moving sometimes more than once per year.

Is preventing less than 2 dozen fraudulent votes worth making it harder for tens of thousands of minorities to vote?

When you peel back the covers it's clear to see that this bill is in fact not about protecting the vote, but about protecting the power base of the GOP by trying to limit the ability of those who historically voted democrat.

Even though the GOP in Wisconsin has said we are broke, they estimate this bill will cost tax payers $8-10 million to implement.

But the real cost of this bill is the loss of voice for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites.

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