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Saturday, April 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 36.0° F  Fair
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EMILY'S POST

Emily's Post: 'Welcome to Wisconsin, Jim Crow'


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Debriefing the #wiunion movement

I invite you all to come down to the shiny new Union South tonight for the New Organizing Institute's "Organizing the Occupation of the Capitol: The Role of Social Media" panel discussion. I'm one of the panelists, along with Sen. Chris Larson, Melissa Ryan, Chris Liebenthal, Maxwell Love, and moderator Tom Foley (aka Illusory Tenant).

It looks like we'll have a great crowd for the event, and I'm looking forward to talking about the extraordinary and unexpected movement that was/is #wiunion, as well as working to figure out where we go next (which becomes more and more important with each rightwing bill crammed through the Legislature-see below).

The panel is being held in the third floor conference room "Industry" from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Jim Crow Wisconsin

It was one of the most difficult things I've watched in a long while: Last night, the Assembly debated AB7, the Voter ID bill, for almost six hours before a final vote saw the measure pass, 60-35.

Protestors watching the proceedings from the gallery erupted into angry shouts at the passage, and as one gentleman was escorted from the room, he summed up the feelings of many well "Welcome to Wisconsin, Jim Crow!"

This bill is, at its core, a rollback of the right to vote that impacts the most vulnerable and already disenfranchised populations in the state. It spits in the face of those who've come before and fought (and sometimes died) to see this most fundamental right guaranteed to all citizens not just those with a specific skin color, gender, or pocketbook size.

Democrats introduced 50 amendments to the bill in an attempt to temper its effects-one that would have allowed any ID, not just state issued ones, to be used at the polls, for instance-but one after another they were all tabled by largely partisan votes.

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Tamara Grigsby's final statement regarding the bill was right-on. "I find it disgusting that we're taking away people's right to vote while making it easier for them to carry a gun," she said in relation to the Assembly today taking up a bill that would legalize concealed carry in the state. "I thought I lived in state that looked out for the most vulnerable…every day I come here now I don't know where the hell I am."

I think a lot of us feel like that. Wisconsin has a long history of fighting for progressive ideals that didn't take rights away but instead extended them to more people. Rep. Fred Kessler's final comments of the night laid out that history, going back to Wisconsin's role as an anti-slavery state even before the Civil War broke out. He effectively lambasted the modern day Republican Party for forsaking its roots as the abolitionist party by passing this "voter suppression" bill. In the end, Kessler's speech felt very much like a eulogy for voting rights in Wisconsin.

Because, as I've already laid out, minority and student populations are less likely to have driver's licenses, people in rural communities can't get them if their county doesn't even have a DMV, the disabled and those without cars will have the most difficult time even getting to a DMV, students often move to a new address every year, and on and on goes the list of reasons why this is a terrible idea.

You could even make the argument that the bill imposes an (illegal) poll tax, in that it requires that people obtain state issued ID, which costs money. Many DMV centers only have hours during the times that most people are at work, too, requiring that they take time off to visit-losing them money in the process. How does that not disproportionately affect the working class/poorer populations?

And all of that voter fraud the backers of the bill keep crying about? I'm going to say this one more time and hope it actually penetrates some skulls: IT. DOESN'T. EXIST.

Sen. Alberta Darling (Recall-WI8) has been sending literature to her constituents claiming, "As you may know, 1,200 ballots in Milwaukee were cast from invalid addresses in the November 2004 election. Also, almost 10,000 more ballots were cast than people who were counted as voting."

The only problem with that is it isn't true. According to a study of the 2004 elections conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice, "allegations yielded only 7 substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes that counted -- all persons with felony convictions."

That's a fraud rate of just 0.0025% within Milwaukee and a measly 0.0002% statewide.

On top of that, the new bill is predicted to cost the state around $5.7 million.

But the bill backers haven't been letting facts and figures stand in the way of their crusade to disenfranchise as many potentially non-Republican voters as possible.


How did we get here? When did it become OK to attack the very bedrock of our democracy? It's just become even more crucial that people get out and vote in the recall elections this summer. It's time to kick these bums out.

The legislation now moves on to the Senate where the still-Republican dominated body is pretty much guaranteed to pass it on to Gov. Walker. The vote is scheduled for this Tuesday, and all I can say is: I hear Illinois is nice this time of year.

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