State Views: Republicans stomping on democracy

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Rep. Andy Jorgensen
Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A double whammy.

That’s when you get the flu on top of a cold. Or, when your employer decides to cut back on your hours and your benefits. Or when we have an exceptionally cold winter during a time of record-high heating prices.

In essence, it isn’t good.

Assembly Republicans delivered a doozy of a double whammy to Wisconsin voters last week, as they approved legislation that would make voting harder and refused to support redistricting reform.

On a party-line vote Thursday night, Republicans approved a reworked voter identification bill that will limit the voting ability of minorities, the elderly, women and young adults—the people who are most likely not to have current state photo IDs. Republicans touted their tweaks to the 2011 voter ID law, which has been blocked in court. The changes include an allowance for voters to weigh in without a photo ID—if they’re willing to swear at the polls that they are too poor to pay for an ID. In essence, under this plan, if you’re willing to share your financial difficulties with strangers, you can vote.

Then, Republicans passed a bill mandating fewer absentee voting hours, a measure that will override local control and local needs. Make no mistake: There was no groundswell of support for this bill; in fact, many municipal clerks opposed it. This mandate came from the top down.

Republicans say these bills ensure fair elections and strengthen our democracy. I say hogwash! If Republicans were truly interested in fair elections and a stronger democracy, they would have at least scheduled a hearing on redistricting reform, a proposal that has languished in committee for the past six months. On Thursday night when Democrats called for consideration of AB 185, the redistricting reform bill, Republicans flat-out refused.

There’s no denying that making a nonpartisan agency responsible for dividing Assembly and Senate districts based on neutral criteria such as population equality, contiguity, unity of counties and cities, and compactness would be better for voters than having the party in power at the time draw up maps to protect their own hides. Just look at the mess in Washington for proof of that.

Gerrymandering isn’t better for voters. Voter ID isn’t better for voters. More limited access to absentee ballots isn’t better for voters.

All these things are better for Republicans. At least, they are for now. I think that when these power grabs lead to an even more divisive, polarized political environment, voters aren’t going to like it.

We want—and need—leaders who answer not only to people who agree with them but also to those who don’t. It’s in the middle that we find the priorities of Wisconsin families—such as a stronger public school system and better-paying jobs—and that we find a more cooperative, common-sense Legislature.

You deserve a double bonus, not a double whammy. Keep demanding better from your lawmakers, and keep track of who delivers.

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, represents the 43rd Assembly District. Readers can contact him at P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708; phone 888-534-0043; email Rep.Jorgensen@legis.Wisconsin.gov.

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