Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chris Taylor wants education on voter ID, while Scott Walker just wants to blame everyone but himself

Walker's bitter response to funding voter ID education campaign uses apples to oranges comparison

About 16 percent of voters don’t know or don’t think you need an ID to vote in our state. That’s equivalent to 13,000 people in a capacity crowd at Lambeau Field not knowing the new voting rules, or about 542,991 registered voters in Wisconsin that don’t understand the ID law.

Chris Taylor, a Democratic state legislator from Madison, is hoping to change that. She’s asking the state to fund an information campaign to educate the public on Wisconsin’s newly instituted voter ID rules. Though passed early in Scott Walker’s tenure, the law didn’t go fully into effect until this year’s spring primary and general elections.

In addition to requiring an ID to vote, the law that was passed also stated that Wisconsin would fund an education campaign to help residents better understand the process and necessary documents needed to vote. Yet that campaign hasn’t materialized.

The Government Accountability Board agrees with Taylor, and will formally request $250,000 to be appropriated to funding an education campaign across statewide television and radio stations, as well as newspapers and billboards. Even Republican Rep. John Nygren thinks it’s a sound investment “to assure every vote is counted.”

But Gov. Scott Walker implies that’s too much. And he blames the legal battle to implement his voter ID law for the inability of the state to create an education campaign.

“The fact is, the State had to spend a whole lot of time and money defending the law, and we continue to do so today,” Walker said. “If people were really serious about that, they wouldn’t have allowed the State to use all that money to fight courts and to use that in promoting the system.”

But that’s an apples to oranges comparison. What legal fees are spent shouldn’t affect the money that was mandated to have been allocated towards educating the public on the voter ID law.

Court fees shouldn’t be looked at as wasteful spending. The people of Wisconsin have a right to question their government’s laws on constitutional grounds, and certainly they were well-within their rights to do so on the question of voter ID. Indeed, a recent ruling has suggested that the state might have to provide exemptions to those who face special burdens to getting a state-issued ID.

Without the courts intervening or the citizens challenging the law, those who face overwhelming challenges to get an ID might not otherwise have the right to vote in the state. Certainly that fact alone makes the litigation worth it.

The “brown bag” governor hasn’t exactly been frugal himself. In the first seven months of 2013, for example, he spent more than $180,000 in taxpayer funds on flight costs, mostly in flying back-and-forth between Milwaukee and Madison. Other flights included in his expenses were photo ops that happened to coincide with visits to many of his campaign donors.

If Walker wants to talk about fiscal responsibilities he should first look at what his own taxpayer-funded spending has been like. In the meantime he should quit his belly-aching about the right of every Wisconsinite to challenge the constitutionality of state laws, and put a renewed focus on funding the education campaign of the voter ID rules, as the law he signed himself mandates he should do.

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