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A Wisconsin Republican Looks Back With Regret at Voter ID and Redistricting Fights

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Topher Sanders reports in ProPublica:

Dale Schultz, a Republican, served in the Wisconsin Legislature for more than 30 years, from 1983 to 2015. His Senate district is located in south Wisconsin, much of it rural farmland. Schultz was considered a moderate, and so much of what happened in state politics near the end of his tenure dismayed him: partisan fights over the rights of unions, a gubernatorial recall election, and claims of partisan Republican gerrymandering that will now be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

And then there was the prolonged entanglement over voting rights in the state — who could vote, when they could vote, how they could vote. In the face of years of political combat and federal court fights, the legislature ultimately adopted a vast array of changes to election laws. Among them:

  • Voters would have to produce certain types of identification.
  • Early voting was reduced.
  • Restrictions on absentee balloting were implemented.
  • Time frames for how long people had to be residing in the state before they could vote were lengthened.

Republicans hailed the moves as overdue steps toward improving the integrity of state voting. Democrats cried foul, alleging a conspiracy to suppress votes among people of color and others inclined to vote Democratic.

Schulz was in office for the birth of the efforts to tighten voting procedures and often present for the Republican deliberations about their aims. Schultz, before leaving office, voted for the initial voting measures, a decision he came to regret. He opposed some of the subsequent measures as litigation over the issues made their way through the courts and his career wound down.

ProPublica had a rare interview with Schultz recently about the issue of voting in Wisconsin. The Q&A follows. It has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

ProPublica: You were initially in favor of Republican efforts to tighten voting and reconfigure districts. What first appealed to you about those ideas?

Dale Schultz: Well, the blunt truth is, as a partisan politician, your knee-jerk reaction is to protect the standing of your party because that solidifies your power to accomplish what you want to do. My good friend and former colleague, Tim Cullen, also served as Senate majority leader but on the Democrat side, and we’ve said we’re both guilty of voting for redistricting maps which were politically motivated. This isn’t a one party sin. It happens on both sides, and that’s why we introduced our bipartisan bill to change how we redistrict in Wisconsin. I’m happy the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue this fall.

The Republicans pushing the voter ID effort cited voter fraud as a concern and a reason to tighten voting rules and requirements. Did anyone ever show you compelling evidence of that?

No, in fact, quite the opposite. Some of the most conservative people in our caucus actually took the time to involve themselves in election-watching and came back and told other caucus members that, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see it.”

In terms of voting laws, look, I don’t have a fundamental problem with having to show a photo ID in order to vote, but what I do have a problem with are the severe restrictions on what kind of photo ID is allowed and also using these laws to suppress the votes of specific groups.

You need to understand, I come from the old school of the “Institution of the Senate.” When I was coming up through the ranks, and even when I was majority leader, I put great stock and respect into the chairmanship system. When you were given a chair of a committee, you were expected to put the good of the Senate above all else. So when the chair of the Senate elections committee says there’s a problem with voter fraud in the state, and the committee passes a bill out, you take them at their word.

But that’s on me.

Anyway, I ultimately ordered my staff to launch our own investigation and come up with three concrete examples of voter fraud in Wisconsin. Well, guess what? They couldn’t do it, and you need to understand the time, I had graduates from the University of Wisconsin journalism school on staff who’d worked for national publications. But we did come up with two examples. One was a Republican legislative staffer who’d voted in the Madison area as well as back in her hometown in the same election. The other was the estranged wife of a Republican. That’s it, and both examples were on the Republican side.

Did you ever raise the lack of evidence with your Republican colleagues? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2017 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Politics

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