November 12, 2012

What’s The Number?

How can making it more difficult for Wisconsin residents to exercise their right to vote in the leading democracy in the world be justified?

Even with images of Americans forced to wait in lines as long as seven hours long simply to cast their ballot so indelible President Obama in his victory speech said “we have to fix that,” Wisconsin Republicans are gearing up to pass new laws to make voting here even more inconvenient and onerous.

The question they must be asked: how can making it more difficult for Wisconsin residents to exercise their right to vote in the leading democracy in the world be justified?

To date, the answer from politicians seeking to manipulate the electoral process for their own benefit has been “voter fraud”. So to those who would support more anti-voter laws, we issue a simple challenge. Show us the number.

If you will justify preventing hundreds of thousands of legal Wisconsin voters who register on Election Day or who vote early from doing so based on alleged fraud, produce the evidence to back up your rhetoric.

In 2011, there were 136 murders in Wisconsin, the many involving firearms. Yet the legislature didn’t limit access to guns, it passed a concealed carry law that allows hidden weapons to be carried in shopping malls, hospitals, churches and day care centers.

There were 40 deaths due to domestic violence in 2011, almost half involving a gun. Yet no legislation has been introduced to close loopholes that let individuals with restraining orders purchase a firearm.

Based on media reports, less than two-dozen verified cases of improper voting have occurred in Wisconsin since 2005, and roughly 14 million votes have been cast. But the Republican controlled legislature and Gov. Walker enacted a voter identification law, found unconstitutional by two judges, potentially disenfranchising an estimated 300,000 legal voters. Powerful Republican State Senator Alberta Darling effectively declared that had voter ID been in effect and certain voters kept from the polls, the GOP would have benefitted politically.

Representative Vos, presumptive Assembly Speaker, crowed that the elimination of straight ticket voting in the last session provided Republican state legislative candidates with an advantage. And, as a result of Republicans drawing their own political districts, Democrats received more votes than Republicans in State Senate races yet lost the majority.

And they want to do even more.

In 2008 roughly 460,000 legal Wisconsin voters registered to vote on Election Day and made their voice heard. Over the last two presidential elections, over one million people have taken advantage of early voting, casting their ballot before Election Day.

The problem is not voters, voting. The problem in Wisconsin is politicians using a manufactured issue, improper voting, to cover up the fact that they’re making it more complicated and difficult to vote protects their partisan political interests.

Before politicians like Representative Vos change laws to eliminate same day registration and restrict early voting, inconveniencing at best, disenfranchising at worst, hundreds of thousands of legal voters, they better have good reasons and verifiable facts to back up the rhetoric on which their nefarious scheme is based.

Without a verifiable, and significant, number of improper votes being produced, further attempts to make voting laws more complicated and restrictive must be rejected and denounced for the attempt to advance partisan political interests at the expense of our rights that they are.

So, Representative Vos and other would-be vote suppressors, we’re waiting. What’s the number?

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Scot Ross served as Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute from 2007 to 2019.

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