By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Tool of Oppression Sanctioned by Conservative Courts
In 2016, Wisconsin turned red for the first time since 1984. The last Republican to win a presidential race in Wisconsin was Ronald Reagan. And with the election of Donald Trump, many political analysts were left asking “what just happened?”. Two years later, many theories have emerged, but make no mistake that the attack on voter protections definitely played a role. Republicans have told us as much. Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grotham, when asked in 2016 why he thought a Republican candidate could flip a reliably Democratic state, Grotham gleefully said, “Now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference.” The state’s top law enforcement officer, Brad Schimel suggested that Donald Trump won because Wisconsin had put voter ID laws in place.
In 2011, Scott Walker led the charge on voter ID laws that likely contributed to our state’s lowest voter turnout in 16 years. Wisconsin became the poster child for what voter suppression tactics could do to change the outcomes of an election. Next would come the effort to purge the voter rolls, that is now playing out at the federal level.
This week the U.S. Supreme Court granted more power of suppression than ever to people like Walker. The decision came after an Ohio man made his way to the polls only to find out he’d been dropped from the voter rolls. He was shocked to find out this was no accident either. In Ohio voters are sent a notice after skipping a federal election cycle, failure to respond or vote within four years means their names are removed from the rolls entirely. This decision was upheld by the nation’s Supreme Court. But if it all sounds familiar, it’s because Wisconsin has been doing a version of this that caused problems in our February primary elections this year.
Last year, 343,000 postcards were sent to Wisconsinites, who were flagged by a multi-state group called the Electronic Registration Information Center that they may need to update their voter registration. If they did not respond, then their names were removed from the state’s voting rolls. The problem is that there were people who were removed who should not have been. They showed up to vote and were forced to re-register.
Regulations like these are put in place under the guise of stopping voter fraud. However, the facts don’t bare out the concerns raised about fraud at the polls. The reality is these tactics are put in place to suppress the participation of communities of color, working class, students, and the elderly. These are the groups that have been hit the hardest by obstacles to voting. The conservatives on the courts just made it worse. The stolen supreme court seat from the Obama administration equals stolen voting rights for the American people.