By Cassandra Lans
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon following the vote and called the passage of this bill “mean spirited”.
He also stated that this move made by state Republicans was a direct attack on Milwaukee and Madison, because early voting on weekends is something that has been popular in the state’s larger cities.
Common Council president Michael Murphy released the following statement regarding the approval of the bill SB324:
“Using twisted logic and the power of the majority, the GOP-controlled Legislature in Madison today approved regressive legislation restricting the ability of Milwaukee residents to vote.
The legislation – which also negatively affects voters in other communities across the state – will ultimately discourage voters (elderly, disabled, working poor, and many African Americans and Latinos) who have a limited ability to vote during normal business/ work hours.
Supporters of the legislation (SB 324) claim it was drafted to “level the playing field,” so that communities such as New Berlin (population approximately 40,000) could provide the same access to voting as Milwaukee (population 600,000).
They say the intent of the bill is to make it fair between communities, but how is it fair that Milwaukee has to serve more than 300,000 voters in the same amount of hours at one site as Chenequa with 500 voters?
If they want to set standardized hours then they should give us the ability to have more than one site.
That’s how we are able to do it on Election Day — we operate multiple sites between 7:00 am and 8:00 pm.
This bill is just a blatant attack on voters’ rights in larger municipalities
To me it is obvious the legislation is meant to rein in successful early voting in mostly Democratic-leaning larger cities, especially Milwaukee and Madison.
So instead of finding a solution to the perceived “level playing field” problem – such as finding a few hundred thousand dollars from the state surplus to allow smaller towns and villages across Wisconsin to provide extra voting hours – the GOP and Governor Walker have chosen to punish hard working urban residents in Milwaukee and other cities.
Worse yet, Governor Walker would rather hold a special session of the Legislature to look at new Voter ID measures that could likely cost millions of dollars to implement across the state (measures that may not even pass legal muster!).
It’s clear that today’s vote was meant to suppress the vote in Milwaukee and elsewhere in Wisconsin, and I believe it will be an anchor on Governor Walker’s political future going forward as people of color and the working poor will certainly look upon the rhetoric of the Governor’s outreach to their communities with suspicion.”
State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) gave an impassioned speech on Wednesday — implying the bill has racial undertones.
“If it looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck,” Sen. Taylor said. Saying the bill has brought back the “Jim Crow” days, Taylor argued the bill would scale back constitutional rights.
“I feel like I’m in 1906 — fighting the same fights people who came long before me had to fight.
I feel like I’m fighting the fights, to just make sure people have access to the ability to vote,” Sen. Taylor said.
Mayor Barrett insists, ““This has everything to do with the fact that the city of Milwaukee and the city of Madison has a higher percentage of people who vote for Democrats. This is all about suppressing the vote.”
According to the Mayor’s Office, over 35,000 people in Milwaukee cast in-person absentee ballots in the 2012 presidential election.
Governor Walker has not yet indicated if he will sign the bill or not.