Walker administration violates its own law in continuing to suppress the black vote

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration vowed to an appeals court that it would remove obstacles making it difficult for citizens to vote, even if those citizens lacked the usual required documentation, such as birth certificates. To prove it, the administration enacted a rule requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to mail a free photo ID within six business days to anyone who goes to a DMV office to set the registration process.

But with only a month left before a close presidential election, Walker administration’s transportation officials are nowhere near making good on that pledge, according to an independent investigation. U.S. District Judge James Peterson, who originated the decision leading to the administration’s new rule, has launched an investigation to learn why.

The Nation and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel both reported the advocacy group Vote Riders sent voting-rights advocates, most of them apparently African Americans, to 10 area DMV offices, where they requested photo IDs.

Most were not given the correct information and at least one was flatly turned down by a clerk who said birth certificates are required, even though signs on the premises stated otherwise. Only three out of the 10 offices abided by the rules.

On Oct. 4, the DMV announced retraining efforts, claiming that there’s “plenty of time to right any wrongs that may have occurred.”

This DMV chicanery isn’t the first time the state’s Republican leadership has been caught flouting election law to prevent citizens from registering. Shortly after Walker and the GOP took over state government, they began enacting a series of increasingly strict laws to keep suspected Democratic voters — blacks, Latinos, students, the elderly — away from the polls. Within months of Walker’s taking office, DMV clerks were told not to offer voter IDs for free, even though the law required them to do so.

Walker also began shutting down DMV offices and eliminating staff. He curtailed the operating hours of many DMVs, making it impossible for poor people to register without taking off work.

Walker said the cuts were needed to save money. But Republicans’ efforts to disenfranchise voters have cost the state considerably. Walker’s onslaught of controversial voter-suppression laws has prompted one costly trial after another. The legal bills are likely to have drained millions of taxpayer dollars from state coffers.

Voting in Wisconsin is already hard. Only six other states — Indiana, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Kansas — have restrictions as prohibitive as Wisconsin’s. Yet, as we examined in our Sept. 22 issue, there is no evidence that voter fraud is a problem here or anywhere else.

However, there’s ample evidence — including revealing statements from backers of ID laws — that the GOP’s voting “reform” campaign seeks to keep African Americans and other likely Democratic voters away from the polls.

We applaud Judge Peterson’s commitment to get to the bottom of this current scandal. (His ruling was due Oct. 7 as WiG went to press.) We’re counting on him to ensure there are consequences for the Walker administration’s latest despicable attack on democracy.

Voting rights is a bipartisan issue, and we urge Republican readers to join with Democrats and tell officials to stop trying to win elections by cheating.