Assembly GOP mounts assault on democracy

Assembly GOP mounts assault on democracy

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Jeff Stone

Republicans in the Legislature want to radically rewrite election law in Wisconsin so that it is less transparent, less responsive and less functional.

Worst of all, they want to do it in a rush with limited public input and even more limited debate.

This is madness.

But it is madness with a purpose: to make it easier for corporations and special interests to influence elections while making it harder for voters to cast ballots.

If enacted, state Rep. Jeff Stone’s legislation would:

• Eliminate remaining controls on corporate spending to buy elections.

• Eliminate key disclosure requirements for election spending.

• Undermine controls against influence peddling and lobbyist abuses.

• Establish a restrictive and expensive voter ID requirement.

• Place severe limits on early voting.

• Make it harder to register to vote.

• Make it easier to disenfranchise voters by rejecting legitimately cast ballots on technicalities.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin has decried Stone’s proposal as a measure that is “so huge, covers so much ground, and has so many independently controversial parts (that it seems to be) intended to cut out any public input or to render (input) meaningless.”

No wonder the notice of the “hearing” on Stone’s plan was posted barely 24 hours before Tuesday’s planned session.

No wonder an Assembly vote is expected on Thursday, less than a week after the introduction of the measure.

Stone and his allies in the leadership of the Assembly Republican caucus know that the proposal would not survive public scrutiny. So they are trying to rush it through without that scrutiny.

“This is how you ram through hyperpartisan, controversial legislation that you are not particularly proud of and do not want the opposition to it to have time to coalesce against,” says Jay Heck, the director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. “You suddenly spring it on the public — and then ram it through before citizens even know what hit them. This is divisive, power politics at its worst and one of the reasons citizens increasingly distrust public officials.”

Democrats and responsible Republicans should use every moral argument, and every legislative tool, to block what Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe correctly terms “a sweeping assault on democracy.”

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