Wednesday, April 27, 2011

State GOP lawmakers to propose voter ID bill

Republicans eye-up changing registration, absentee ballot rules

A legislative proposal by Wisconsin Republicans would make drastic changes to several election laws within our state.

Under current law, you’re able to register on the same day as the election so long as you have proof of residency (a lease or a utility bill, for example). You may register at your current address if you’ve lived there for 10 days or more, and you may even vote absentee without giving any reason for doing so up to 30 days before the election.

But a new bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) would change nearly everything listed above, making harsher restrictions for voters in Wisconsin. Stone’s bill leaves in place same-day voter registration – a provision that Republicans had previously wanted to abolish – but requires that registration to be supplemented with a photo ID. You could only register your current address if you’ve lived there for a month, and you’d have to supply a reason for why you were voting absentee – you could no longer vote absentee, for example, for the convenience of it. The amount of time you could vote absentee would also be curtailed tremendously – from 30 days to one week.

Though Stone’s bill does have some notable changes worth touting – same-day registration is preserved as is the right of those older than 70 to request absentee ballots due to age – it does more harm than good for the voters of this state. Requiring IDs to vote makes registering more difficult for those that are older or poorer, who may not have the time or ability to obtain an ID on their own. Allowing only seven days to submit an absentee ballot also does little good for those who may need more time than that to cast their votes.

To anyone who pays attention to voter ID laws, it’s clear what the true motivations of the Republican Party are: to suppress Democratic voters. The poor and elderly, as well as those that vote with early absentee ballots, are typically Democratic voters, supporting progressive candidates that typically promote helpful programs for the less-to-do in our state. By limiting their ability to access the voting booth, Republicans ensure that the voter turnout for Democrats will be lower in the coming years.

The prevention of voter fraud is an important thing – but the problem is much smaller than Republicans make it out to be, and doesn’t require the drastic measures they’re proposing within Jeff Stone’s bill (most of the “fraud” taking place is ineligible felons trying to vote, not voting as someone whom you aren’t). What’s more, the measures that Republicans ARE proposing are going to cost the state almost $3 million per year, as well as an additional $2 million in computer upgrades. As some conservatives rail on about the unnecessary (but actually necessary) Supreme Court election recount’s costs (about half a million dollars total), they’re proposing to spend nearly six times as much on elections down the road.

The call for election reform is unnecessary, costly, and detrimental to the voting process overall. Republicans are wrong to attack celebrated norms within our state's elections process.

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