Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has for many years engaged in urgent advocacy for laws that make it harder for voters to cast ballots. As the governor of a state that frequently backs Republicans in off-year elections, but that has not backed a Republican for president since 1984, Walker has emerged as a national leader in the fight for rules and restrictions on practices and procedures that are designed to make voting easy. That has put the governor at odds with Wisconsin’s historic commitment to high-turnout elections.
But he has not pushed forward, signing stacks of bills that erect barriers to participation in the political process.
“There have been so many anti-voting laws in this state, it’s hard to keep track,” Analiese Eicher, the program director for the group One Wisconsin Now, told The Nation earlier this year.
“They’re trying to suppress the votes of students,” said Eicher shortly before an April primary election in which students and non-students did, indeed, have to wait in long lines and for several hours to vote. “There’s no other reason.”
Eicher makes an important point. And her group has done much to quantify the battering that voting rights has taken under this particular governor.
But Walker has always denied the charge. He has fretted urgently, in speeches to fellow Republicans, in press conferences, even in debates, about “illegal” voting. And he has made the fight to constrain and constrict voting central to his governorship. Walker is often accused of shirking his responsibilities as Wisconsin’s chief executive. When the governor is not attending one of Fox host Sean Hannity’s Trump talks (as he did the other day in Milwaukee), Walker’s jetting off to some fundraising event to pay off debts from his failed presidential run or visiting with folks from New Hampshire and Iowa to lay the groundwork for a another presidential bid in 2020. But there is one area where the governor has been very serious, and very focused. When it comes to enacting unconstitutional schemes to make it harder to vote, Walker has always stayed on top of things.
In addition to approving some of the harshest voter-ID legislation in the nation, the governor signed a 2013 measure that limited hours for in-person absentee voting and eliminated weekend voting.
This summer, however, US District Judge James Peterson overturned Walker’s restrictions, writing that the law limiting early voting “intentionally discriminates on the basis of race.”