MADISON, Wis. — The latest proposal to roll back voter rights in Wisconsin, Senate Bill 324, hits the trifecta of hypocrisy, racism and fraud according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. The bill, as passed by the Senate and scheduled for an Assembly vote today, would prohibit early, in-person voting before 8am or after 7pm on weekdays or for more than 45 hours per week in municipalities statewide. Weekend in-person absentee voting would be banned.
“The early voting rollback Assembly Republicans are poised to pass today is a case study in hypocrisy, racism and fraud. If this weren’t such a despicable attack on the franchise it would be notable for managing to embody so many undesirable qualities in just one bill,” commented Ross.
After taking control of the legislature and the Governor’s office in 2011, Republicans have aggressively moved to restrict access to the franchise in Wisconsin. Among their first acts was passing a voter ID law, currently enjoined by the courts, estimated to make it harder if not impossible for 300,000 legal voters – overwhelmingly elderly and minority — to exercise their right to the franchise.
An analysis of early voting patterns in Wisconsin in 2012 shows that longer waits to vote and reduced access to the franchise would have resulted had state Republican’s efforts to restrict the hours of early voting been in place. If a 45 hour weekly limit was in effect during the early voting period of the November 2012 election, the City of Milwaukee would have had to process a voter once every 9 seconds and the City of Madison would have had to do so every 17.4 seconds. Meanwhile, smaller rural communities with smaller populations could much more easily accommodate the demand for early voters under the GOP’s proposed restrictions.
“We don’t mandate every community have the same number of schools, regardless of the number of kids. We wouldn’t make communities eliminate firefighters or police officers because some have more than others,” said Ross. “This bill is an outright attempt to squeeze urban voters out of the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.”
A check of state maintained voting records revealed that over 71% of the members of the Republican majority have themselves voted early. According to records maintained by the state Government Accountability Board, 43 GOP members of the Assembly are recorded as having voted early on at least one occasion in recent years. Of the 17 GOP Senators voting for the bill 15 had voted early in recent elections.
While the elected officials who set their own schedules have frequently availed themselves of early voting, the situation is different for others in Wisconsin. In discussing who would be hurt by early voting limits, City of Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht has written that, “… the majority of early voters in the City of Milwaukee are African-American. In fact, during the one weekend when Milwaukee was able to offer early voting hours, nearly one in four voters were from the two aldermanic districts with the highest concentration of African-American voters.”
Ross concluded, “The real fraud in Wisconsin elections is when politicians manipulate the rules on voting, like rolling back early voting, to give themselves an unfair partisan advantage. It’s black and white what is going on here – Republican’s want to rig the system to their advantage and they’re knowingly leaving urban and minority voters with unequal access to the franchise to do it.”