October 3, 2011

You Can Fool Some People, Some of the Time

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Earlier this year, the GOP legislature changed several laws, including, but not limited to, how citizens vote and how administrative rules are used to implement laws.

First I will address the rule making authority and how it has changed. In particular, the GOP relinquished their rulemaking authority to Governor Walker, giving him sole authority over the rulemaking process and the power to block rules written by state agencies and other elected officials. Before this law was passed, administrative rules were written by state agencies and reviewed by the Legislature.

In regards to the second issue, the GOP changed the necessary steps for a citizen to exercise the right to vote, making our Voter ID Law the most restrictive of its kind in the United States. While Republicans claim that the new Voter ID Law was drafted to prevent cases of voter fraud, without question, the voter fraud cases that have occurred throughout the state (there have been less than ten) could not and would not have been avoided by the GOP’s Voter ID Law. Nevertheless, the changes have been made, and now we have to ensure that we comply with the law.

The Government Accountability Board (GAB) is the agency that enforces the laws related to elections and the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) is the legislative committee that conduct reviews of administrative rules propagated by state agencies and elected officials.

With less than normal notice (24 hours and 14 minutes, to be precise), the JCRAR met on Tuesday to evaluate recommendations provided by the GAB to clarify how the Voter ID Law would be implemented. Some of those recommendations required additional steps for voters, and other simplified the process for them. Specifically, the GAB made four distinct recommendations: one related to recall petitions and three related to the Voter ID Law.

Voter ID Law

To make the law clear, the GAB recommended that:

  • student IDs from technical colleges are not sufficient for the purpose of voting
  • student IDs from colleges and universities are acceptable if:
    1. the student has proof of enrollment for the semester that the election will occur; and
    2. a sticker is affixed to the ID, and has the dates of issuance and expiration, and the student’s signature.

Recall Petitions

The GAB determined that there could be a single signer to be both the petitioner and the circulator of the petition. A citizen can download a “Petition for Recall” form, and that one person can be the only petitioner on the form and the circulator of the form, thus making them the sole signatory on the petition. The GAB also decided that the form could have pre-entered information on it. In particular, partial or full address information and the name of the petitioner could be included on the form that is downloaded and printed; however, it must signed and dated by the petitioner.

Republicans contend the GAB has gone too far on some of the aforementioned issues, but not others. Specifically, the GOP agreed with the GAB recommendations to exclude technical college IDs and to require proof of enrollment (both of which create additional challenges for voters). However, the GOP disagrees with the GAB recommendations to allow university or college-issued stickers to be affixed to IDs, and allowing a single signatory for recall petitions (both of which alleviate challenges for voters).

As a result, Republicans want to stop the GAB from proceeding with the recommendations they disagree with, and to compel them into the emergency rule codification process. By forcing the GAB into the emergency rule process, the GOP will subject the GAB recommendations to the governor’s approval. This means that Scott Walker will have the power to adopt or reject rules that may have a considerable impact on his political future.

I am not fooled by the GOP’s claims that they only want to ensure that the GAB is “non-partisan and appropriate.” It is obvious that they agree with the items that make the process more difficult and disagree with the items that make the process more accessible. You can fool some people some of the time and some people all of the time, but you cannot fool all people all of the time. Both voting and the ability to recall are constitutionally-guaranteed rights. Their protection must be a priority.

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