You recall the old phrase, “If you can’t beat them, take away their ability to vote”? Well, neither do I, but that appears to be Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s latest political mantra. Following a string of hotly contested bills passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature, including a controversial voter ID bill, Walker has his next target in sights: close down state motor vehicle offices, in Democratic-leaning districts. But don’t worry, it isn’t a brazen attempt to limit possible Democratic voters’ access to the now-required IDs; it’s just about the money.
Since taking office in January, Scott Walker and GOP state lawmakers have sped full steam ahead with a slew of ultra-right-wing measures that have upset a large number of his constituents. Along with passing a business tax cut to the tune of $67 million, Walker and his allies insisted that massive cuts to public workers and education were needed to balance the state’s budget.
Further, Walker and the GOP steamrollered legislation that would bar most public workers’ unions from collective bargaining, even though he admitted that his union-busting would not save the state any money.
After witnessing thousands of angry protestors at the state Capitol and his poll numbers plummet, Walker now seems to be going the extra mile to try to tip the electorate in his favor. First he got passage of a voter ID bill that would particularly impact likely Democrat voters, and now he is now proposing making it harder to get the necessary identification.
Many point out that such voter ID bills do much more harm than good. These new laws require voters to present a government-issued photo ID before being allowed a ballot. Unfortunately, there are millions of American citizens who do not have a “valid ID.” The groups most affected by these new restrictions – the elderly, African Americans and Latinos, the poor, and college students – are all groups that are historically considered strong Democratic voters. Furthermore, experts say these laws are unjustified, as voter fraud is so rare under existing rules that it is practically nonexistent. Not surprisingly, these laws are pushed by right-wing groups, including those run by the billionaire Koch brothers – big donors to Scott Walker’s campaign.
By closing DMVs, in what his opponents claim are largely Democrat-leaning areas, Walker and his colleagues appear to be taking the process of voter suppression to a new low point.
Democrat Andy Jorgesen is a Wisconsin state representative whose Fort Atkinson district is losing its DMV, making the next closest office 30 minutes away in Watertown, represented by a Republican. “What the heck is going on here?” Jorgesen asked, “Is politics at play here?”
Walker plans to drop the number of DMVs from 88 to 78, which in many cases would result in more difficulty in obtaining the needed ID to gain ballot access. The money saved will then be used to extend hours at DMVs that Democrats say are in Republican districts. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, state Transportation Department executive assistant Reggie Newson claims, “This has nothing to do with politics.”
Apparently Wisconsin is supposed to believe Scott Walker when he claims that proposing strict voter ID laws to combat a nonexistent threat of fraud, and then making it more difficult to obtain those IDs, is just good for the budget. The fact that it stands a good chance of reducing the number of Democratic voters is just a coincidence, apparently.
Although, if all this fails, there’s always a Waukesha County clerk that can mysteriously find a few thousand extra votes to swing an election.