Email date: 3/8/12
In this update:
1. Partisan rift over Voter ID law intensifies
2. On again, off again bill limiting school privatization appears on again
3. One thing lawmakers should definitely do before adjourning session
4. Political ads not as powerful as usual
5. WDC honored for its advocacy of government openness
Partisan rift over Voter ID law intensifies
Legislation requiring Wisconsin voters to have a state-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot was pushed last year for nakedly partisan reasons. It was enacted into law only after a bitterly partisan debate. Now partisanship is even rearing its head in the judicial review of the law, as a judge who temporarily blocked its enforcement has come under fire for having signed a petition seeking Governor Scott Walker’s recall.
The state Republican Party filed a complaint against the judge for not having disclosed he signed the petition and not recusing himself from the voter ID case. But the party has been notably silent about Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman’s refusal to stand down from cases involving a law firm that provided him with tens of thousands of dollars worth of free legal help. The GOP also expressed no concerns when a Waukesha County judge who has donated to Walker’s campaign ruled in the governor’s favor in a dispute over how recall petition signatures should be examined.
Some would say all this would be funny if it weren’t so serious. That didn’t stop humorist Stephen Colbert from giving his audience a good laugh over the purported justification for voter ID requirements – the nearly nonexistent problem of voter fraud. As Colbert says, fraud does happen – .00004% of the time. What he doesn’t say is that of the handful of documented cases of voter fraud in Wisconsin, none of them had to do with identity fraud, the only form a photo ID law could possibly prevent.
On again, off again bill limiting school privatization appears on again
At one point, a bill to curb the unintended expansion of the state’s school voucher program beyond Milwaukee County and Racine was said to be a done deal. Then for several weeks, it appeared to be dead as a doornail. A few days after the Democracy Campaign pointed out more than $440,000 in donations to Governor Walker and Republican legislators from mega-donors who back school privatization, Assembly leaders changed their tune and are now saying they intend to bring the legislation to a vote next week.
One thing lawmakers should definitely do before adjourning session
This time next week, the Legislature will be concluding its last scheduled regular floor period for the 2011-2012 legislative session. Before adjourning, lawmakers should do what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called for in a recent editorial, namely reform the way legislative redistricting is handled.
Political ads not as powerful as usual
As Milwaukee Journal Sentinel political reporter Craig Gilbert pointed out recently, millions of dollars spent on TV ads so far haven’t changed many opinions of Governor Scott Walker. There is a good reason for that. Political ads work best in an information vacuum, when little is known about a race or candidate. There is no information vacuum when it comes to Walker or the recall election. That’s why TV ads won’t figure as prominently in the recall as they normally do. And that’s why there is a unique opportunity for political innovation . . . for an unconventional campaign to break through the same old, same old clutter.
WDC honored for its advocacy of government openness
The Democracy Campaign was named “Citizen Openness Advocate of the Year” today by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. The group’s announcement of its awards says the following about WDC: “No one has done more than this nonpartisan watchdog group to hold public officials accountable by demanding transparency, not only in campaign financing but in the operations of government, and no one has taken more heat for it, especially this year. Special mention goes to the group’s opposition to a bill, still pending, that would in most cases end the requirement that political donors identify their primary employer.”