The bill recently passed in the state Senate to restrict the hours that are available to early voting should be vetoed according to an editorial published at JSOnline.
The GOP, particularly Senator Grothman, argues that these restrictions are necessary to level the playing field between rural and urban municipalities. Well JSOnline disputes that and offers some alternative suggestions if leveling the field is truly the objective. Some key points in the editorial:
Republicans argue that the measure would level the playing field for urban and rural areas because rural clerks don’t have the staff to keep their offices open for long hours like clerks in cities do.
But that’s a thin veneer covering the real intent: What this bill really is all about is suppressing the Democratic vote in Milwaukee and Madison, where many of the state’s people of color live. It’s a highly partisan bill that harks back to an era when voting was made much harder by strict poll laws for certain groups of people. On that basis alone, Gov. Scott Walker should veto the bill.
If Republicans were really concerned about fairness, they would address current state law that limits early voting to only one site per municipality. That punishes larger cities at a time when demand for early voting is increasing rapidly. Milwaukee and other large municipalities should be able to have more than one site open for in-person absentee voting.
And if Republicans really cared about staffing in smaller communities, they would allow them to set their own days of operation. If those communities wanted to accommodate busy voters on the weekend, they could decide to close one day during the week. Why not allow communities to decide for themselves what makes sense?
This is the second time Republicans have pursued limits on early voting since taking control of state government in 2011. That year, they cut the early-voting period from three weeks, including three weekends, to two weeks, including one weekend.
If Walker signs this legislation into law, it’s likely that voting will decline in Milwaukee and Madison and perhaps elsewhere in Wisconsin. That would be no victory for democracy, which should be of concern to both Republicans and Democrats.
There is a reason that large municipalities have enough staff to offer early voting on the weekends. It’s because the size of the city provides the necessary resources and the population size would indicate the need for extended hours. The last word from the editorial, which I quote in absolute agreement: “Governor, veto this bill.”