Opinion

Power grab legislation demonstrates Wisconsin Republicans' lack of character

I have already written about UW-Madison student voting requirements, but as I learn more, it becomes even more clear that Wisconsin’s citizens are suffering at the hands of current Republican legislators’ efforts to decrease voter turnout. After all, high voter turnout often results in a win for Democrats.

Governor Walker signed a law minimizing opportunities for early voting and reducing the power of Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Joshua L. Kaul’s intent to “[withdraw] the state from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act.” Evers, along with several other Democratic candidates who campaigned on health care, hopes to enable those with pre-existing medical conditions to receive medical care.

Politifact reported that Lindsay Nielson, a political science professor and researcher at Bucknell University, has evidence concluding “that voter ID laws lower minority turnout and benefit the Republican Party.” This evidence has been confirmed by political science professor Kenneth Mayer and PHD candidate Michael G. DeCrescenzo, whose 2017 survey discovered that in Wisconsin, “[voter ID laws] disproportionately [affect] low-income and African-American voters.” Republican legislators are well aware of this fact and use it to their own advantage. 

Kenneth and DeCrescenzo’s survey also found that turnout in the 2016 election was substantially low — even for a presidential election. And while the majority of registered voters “possessed acceptable IDs,” they did not cast a ballot “because they mistakenly believed that they would not be accepted.” Time after time research has demonstrated that voter fraud is rare in American elections, and efforts to restrict voters from exercising their right deprives them from their ability to see the change they wish to see become reality. Voter ID laws, as evidenced in this case, can incite fear into voters who clearly are not meaning any harm.

Furthermore, Republican legislators have indicated their propensity to prioritize partisanship over the wishes of Americans. By establishing the legislature’s ability “to hire its own lawyers to defend state law in court, diminishing the attorney general's power,” Republican lawmakers are exposing their own desperation for power. They may be forgetting that this check on power ironically will affect them if a Republican governor were to be elected in the future again. But for Republican legislators’ sake, their actions indicate that quashing any policy change even the public hopes to see enacted is the best way to ensure that their agenda will remain at the forefront of public policy and that Evers will face challenges fulfilling his campaign promises for constituents. 

These selfish efforts work to curb the power of both Attorney General-elect Kaul and Gov.-elect Evers. Both candidates have worked hard to gain the support of their Democratic base and others; they even visited UW-Madison to demonstrate their commitment to get-out-the-vote efforts and to excite young voters about becoming politically active. The line to see Wisconsin’s Democratic ticket and former Vice President Joe Biden trailed out the door of Gordon’s Dining Hall. Several students began posting pictures on social media afterward in hopes to promulgate the importance of voting to their peers.

If you want to gain the respect of the people, listen to them. They showed up for the midterms. They recognize that change needs to occur.

It’s difficult to cede power to your opponents, but Wisconsin legislators’ unwillingness to do so reveals their petulance. Their acts are supporting a widespread attitude amongst Republicans that partisanship is far more important than the vision the public has for the state. Once the people have chosen who they want, others on the political spectrum can continue to take measures to demonstrate their opposition. 

The New York Times reported that “Robin Vos, the speaker of the Assembly, said Republicans owed it to their voters to protect policies enacted under Scott Walker, the Republican governor who was defeated in November, and to institute checks on the power of the incoming Democrat, Tony Evers.”

Just like Democrats had to accept the fact that Donald Trump would become president, Republican lawmakers must acknowledge and legitimize Evers as the successive governor. 

Wisconsin legislators' efforts are deplorable and only further demonstrate their blatant disregard for the wishes of the majority.

Students are among those voters who must demand that the people's voices are heard. Last-minute laws that are pushed through to suppress the will of the majority should be rejected at all costs.

Gaby is a freshman studying political science and intending on studying strategic communication. What do you think about Wisconsin Republicans' decision to limit the power of the new Democratic governor? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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