Despite vocal opposition from voters across Wisconsin, Republican state legislators last week passed several new voting restrictions at the end of the legislative session.
The measures restrict early absentee voting hours to Mon-Fri 8am-7pm and eliminate weekend voting, restrict voting options for people living in residential nursing care and assisted living facilities, and expand the times when lobbyists can contribute to political campaigns. A Marquette Law School Poll released Wednesday found that 66 percent of Wisconsinites prefer expanding or maintaining current early voting hours, while only 32 percent favor a reduction.
Not to be outdone, on Thursday Republican Governor Scott Walker signed the new voting restrictions into law, part of 31 bills he signed behind closed doors in Milwaukee. Walker previously told reporters the bills weren’t on his radar, but he signed the elections and campaign finance bills with minor line-item vetoes to the 45-hour weekly limit on total early voting hours and appropriations, enacting egregious early absentee voting restrictions with the stroke of his gubernatorial pen.
At a Madison press conference following the news that Governor Walker had signed the measures, Wisconsin State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) noted the measures’ impact:
"One in six of Wisconsin voters votes absentee, almost 17 percent of our electorate votes in person absentee. We should be doing more to encourage people to vote, not less. If people in this building care about voting rights they would set a floor, not a ceiling."
Taylor went on to say that the measures, combined with the expansion of corporate money in politics, amount to no less than an attempt to silence the people’s voice in elections. She noted that the combined measures will disproportionately affect people with disabilities, minorities, senior citizens, and students, making it harder for everyday people to vote while making it easier for lobbyists to influence elections.
To add insult to injury, Walker — who is running again for governor in 2014, and entertaining a presidential bid in 2016 -- then boarded a jet to Las Vegas to attend a private conference with billionaire GOP kingmaker Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul who poured millions of dollars into the 2012 elections.
Walker is one of several GOP presidential hopefuls convening in Las Vegas to “audition” for support from Adelson and other wealthy GOP donors. So while voters back home in Wisconsin try to figure out how they’ll get to the polls, the governor and other presidential aspirants are gathering to “kiss the ring” of Adelson and his millionaire buddies.