MADISON, Wis. — The proposed calendar of bills up for debate in the state Senate on Tuesday is rife with measures to reduce voters’ access to the franchise while increasing legislators’ access to special interest money. Representatives of community groups from the Coalition to Protect Wisconsin Elections denounced the latest attempts by state legislators to strip voters of their rights while giving greater voice to the special interests at a Monday morning press conference.
Mike Wilder, Co-chair from the African American Roundtable based in Milwaukee, spoke on the package of bills. “Our elected officials should be focused on protecting freedom and opportunity, not decreasing the number of people who can vote. This cluster of anti-voter bills will have devastating and long-lasting impacts on the voice Wisconsinites will have in our democracy.”
Among the specific anti-voter, pro-special interests measures set to be debated by the State Senate on Tuesday are:
- Senate Bill 324 restricting early voting hours and banning the option of weekend voting like “souls to the polls” drives organized by faith communities;
- Senate Bill 267 making it more difficult for people to register to vote early
- Senate Bill 655 repealing current law to allow lobbyists to contribute directly to legislators starting April 15 of election years, even while the legislature is in session; and
- Assembly Bill 202 requiring poll observers be allowed as close as 3 feet to poll workers despite numerous complaints of harassing and intimidating behavior in recent elections.
In November 2012, nearly 665,000 Wisconsinites cast their ballots early, in person and roughly one in four ballots cast in 2008 were cast early. Several municipal clerks, including those in the City of Milwaukee and Madison, responsible for administering elections offered extended hours for voting to allow working people to participate in democracy and cast their vote after work or on weekends.
“Voting early is simple and necessary for many working families all around the state. Sometimes the weekend is the only moment many 9to5 members have a minute to vote, and now politicians are trying to deny us this opportunity?” stated Martha De La Rosa, state director of 9to5 Wisconsin that advocates for economic security of low-income women. “Working women of this state don’t have time for more political tricks and voting hurdles. Our voices need to be heard; too much is at stake for us.”
One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director Scot Ross concluded, “More harassment and delays in polling places, less opportunities and more inconvenience for legal voters to access the franchise and more influence from special interests. The only people who think this is a good idea are the politicians trying to change the rules to gain an unfair partisan advantage for themselves.”