Re Voter ID, Wisconsin is South Carolina, but without adult supervision | WisCommunity

Re Voter ID, Wisconsin is South Carolina, but without adult supervision

When just before Christmas the US Department of Justice ruled that South Carolina's new Voter ID law may not be implemented because it amounts to a vote suppression scheme that violates civil rights, we here in Wisconsin could rightly say, "Amen, brother." Because Wisconsin's new Voter ID bill, also enacted by Republicans hoping to suppress the voting opposition, was even more onerous than the measure enacted in South Carolina.

But it's just a moral victory, because, as the American Prospect notes:

Even though the rejection of South Carolina’s law represents a welcome new tone from DOJ, there is little the Obama administration can do to overturn the whole slate of new voter-suppression measures. Section 5 [of the federal Voting Rights Act] only covers nine states and a smattering of counties and townships, allowing states like Wisconsin, Tennessee and Kansas to implement the same kinds of restrictions without federal approval.

Section 5 was created by Congress years ago expressly to keep a close eye on traditionally segregationist, southern states that had a long pattern of denying blacks the right to vote. That law still applies to Texas, South Carolina and seven other sunbelt states. It does not apply to Wisconsin. Thus, Wisconsin has become the new Old South, a place where minorities may see their rights trampled for political gain. That is, if pending civil lawsuits fail to overturn the Wisconsin law on broader grounds. The American Prospect continued: 

South Carolina, like the other states who’ve passed laws requiring photo ID at the polls, claimed that its measure was needed to protect against voter fraud. DOJ sees no evidence to support that justification. "The state's submission did not include any evidence or instance of either in-person voter impersonation or any type of fraud that is not already addressed by the state's existing voter identification requirement and that arguably could be deterred by requiring voters to present only photo identification at the polls," wrote Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez. The department also found that non-white voters were 20 percent more likely to be excluded by the new law. A total of 81,938 registered minority voters lack the requisite ID.

No such evidence exists in Wisconsin, either, as even the state's Republican attorney general has in effect acknowledged.

What a shameful come-down for Wisconsin. Once a destination for black slaves fleeing their southern plantation masters via the so-called Underground Railroad (Scott Walker probably wouldn't like THAT railroad, either), Wisconsin is now acting more like the very Confederacy that stood to preserve slavery than South Carolina and other southern states are allowed to act.

How did this happen? When the highly contentious Voting Rights Act was passed by a strong majority of Democrats in 1965, lawmakers did not foresee that, very soon, the Republican Party nationwide and in northern states would devolve from one including moderates and even liberals into an exclusively far-right-wing, authoritarian enterprise. Result: Today's northern Republicans in some ways are busy outdoing the Confederacy, all to preserve their current power base, just as the Confederacy sought to preserve the plantation system that depended on slave labor.

Welcome to the eve of the next battle over civil rights, and perhaps even the second civil war.


December 28, 2011 - 9:25am