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Facing Recall, Wisconsin GOP Will Hustle Through Voter ID Bill That Disenfranchises Students, Seniors

By Tanya Somanader  

"Facing Recall, Wisconsin GOP Will Hustle Through Voter ID Bill That Disenfranchises Students, Seniors"

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The backlash against Wisconsin Republicans is gathering steam. In response to the state GOP’s campaign against workers’ rights, Democrats and labor activists gathered well over the number of signatures needed to file recall petitions against six state Republican senators last month. Should the petitions be certified, officials would call the first election for July 12.

The unprecedented recall effort has set the GOP scrambling to pass their agenda quickly, in case they lose their majority this summer. Not only will they once again target public employees and try to legalize concealed weapons, now state Republicans are rushing through a voter ID bill that would disenfranchise many Wisconsin voters:

Republicans, in a rapid sequence of votes over the next eight weeks, plan to legalize concealed weapons, deregulate the telephone industry, require voters to show photo identification at the polls, expand school vouchers and undo an early release for prisoners.

Lawmakers may also act again on Walker’s controversial plan stripping public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. An earlier version, which led to massive protest demonstrations at the Capitol, has been left in limbo by legal challenges.

“Everything’s been accelerated,” said Republican Rep. Gary Tauchen, who is working on the photo ID bill. “We’ve got a lot of big bills we’re trying to get done.”

Wisconsin’s bill requires voters to use a driver’s license, state ID, military ID, passport, naturalization papers or tribal ID at the polls. Though student IDs are technically permitted, none of the colleges or universities in the state currently use IDs that meet the requirements listed in the bill. And as state Sen. Bob Jauch (D) notes, 175,000 seniors (70 percent of whom are women) do not have driver’s licenses and may have to “get a ride at least 50 miles round trip to obtain an identification card to enable them to continue their constitutional right to vote.” What’s more, the bill will cost the state more than $5.7 million to implement — at a time when Gov. Scott Walker (R) is claiming the state is broke and needs to restrict public employees’ collective bargaining rights to survive.

The speed at which the voter ID bill is advancing has caught the eye of the non-partisan board that overseas elections. “There has been no time for the careful evaluation and vetting needed to ensure the best options for voters and election officials is enacted,” said Government Accountability Board head Kevin Kennedy. The state Assembly will take up, and most likely pass, the bill this week after which Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) will “shepherd it through” the Senate. Should it pass the legislature, Gov. Scott Walker (R) said he’ll sign it.

These Republicans join at least 22 GOP-led statehouses across the country pushing voter ID bills that severely restrict voting rights of college students, rural voters, senior citizens, the disabled, and the homeless. Hyping up the non-existent problem of “voter fraud,” these states could exclude millions (as many 12 percent nationwide) of voters who do not currently have government-issued photo IDs.

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