Oct 25, 2016

Wisconsin Voters Prevail in Court, Then Face New Fight to Vote

American heroes: Two of many Wisconsin litigants
who took on Republican voter obstruction laws in Wisconsin
The Republican Party stands for much that is deplorable.

Perhaps nothing is worse than its animosity to voting, the foundation of American democracy.

Republicans and rightwing money have poured money and effort into obstructing voters and even when voters ultimately prevail in the courts, voters are left confused, isolated and frustrated.

All of these objectives are part of the Republican assault on democracy.

Writes Michael Wines in a NYT piece filed from Madison, Wisconsin today:

It seemed a clear victory for voting rights advocates in July when a federal court invalidated much of Wisconsin’s restrictive elections law, concluding that it discriminated against minorities by requiring voters to produce photo ID cards that blacks and Latinos too often lack. The remedy was straightforward: Henceforth, the state was to 'promptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person' who applied for one. ...

Despite a string of court victories against restrictive voting laws passed by Republican legislatures, even when voting rights groups win in court, they are at risk of losing on the ground. 

On the ground includes navigating a purposely onerous state DMV and, though not mentioned by Wines today, a new twist in another barrier to voting: The poll worker, (or election inspector).

After the Wisconsin Republican Party began naming its poll workers some five years ago, voters often face a hostile, antagonistic gantlet at the polling place: Wisconsin Republicans. Wisconsin Republicans being Wisconsin Republicans more likely than not: White and racist polling workers.

I speak from personal experience, you have to fight against every encroachment for your right to vote.

I spoke with Ruthelle Frank of Brokaw, Wisconsin in March 2012. Frank is a co-plaintiff in the heavily litigated federal voting rights case, Frank v. Walker:

'I have been living here 83 years; everybody knows me. We [Brokaw] have 194 people. I maybe could have voted last month illegally,' Frank said. 'I wasn't allowed to vote legally though, because I didn't have a valid Wisconsin ID. I didn't vote.'

As civil rights activists today march from Selma to Montgomery in protest of Alabama's voter ID and anti-immigration laws, Ms. Frank keeps up the fight in Wisconsin.

'My motto is: You don't use what you have, you lose it. But I have never seen treatment like this, what is going on,' said Frank. 'I'm fighting for everyone who has lost his [voting] rights. This isn't right, it's just plain crazy. Just because we're old, and can't get around like we're young doesn't mean we're stupid and can't think and shouldn't be able to vote.'

Frank whose story was broken by Robert Mentzer [in 2011] in the Wausau Daily Herald, sang the praises of old-time journalism, singling out Mentzer.

'I called up Bob Mentzer of the Wausau Daily Herald and told him what was going on; and he just said, "he's driving over,'" said Frank.

As the state and federal law suits against voter ID laws across the country continue, Frank said she is optimistic and ready for the fight.

The fight for voting continues, and one Party, the Republicans, are again on the wrong side of history.

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