November 6, 2012

Milwaukee Courier

Legislatively Speaking: Republicans Tell Independent Voters- “We Don’t Want You”

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Once again, Republicans of the Wisconsin Senate are trying to undermine dissimilar voter populations through a new bill that changes residency requirements for election officials at the polling place. Under current law, election officials at polling places need to be from the ward or election district where voting is occurring. However, the residency of election officials bill seeks to expand this restriction, allowing election officials to be nominated from the entire county where voting is taking place. By law, when choosing election officials, Clerks have to give priority to those poll workers who are nominated by political parties over those who have no affiliation.

 In many rural areas, independent election officials typically serve their ward, as there is no distinct presence of any political party and therefore no party based nominations. However, through expanding the qualifications for election officials to those within the county, not just the ward, ultra conservatives can reach their influence out to rural wards and nominate party members within their county’s GOP party. It is clear that the Republican Party is attempting to reach election districts with high percentages of minority voters and low Republican presence. While anyone could argue the Democratic Party could do the same, it is important to recognize that this is a Republican bill. Furthermore, this is not the first Republican bill that tightens voting restrictions in Wisconsin.

There are more independent voters in Wisconsin than members of either political party. Time and time again people tell me that they vote for the person, not the party. One message from the voters should be clear, political parties don’t need more power – people do!

The GOP claims municipalities struggle and have a difficult time getting poll workers to serve in smaller wards. In reality, the struggle to find poll workers is a direct and calculated consequence of past bills the GOP has created that make election administration so complicated poll workers are afraid they will make mistakes and end up being criticized by legislators in the media. The GOP is not solving employment issues through the ‘residency of election officials’ bill, they are simply adding the next piece to their plan that systematically encourages the polarization of American politics.

Through altering the way election officials are selected, the Republican Party is pushing aside voters without party affiliations. Under this bill, the GOP can deny independents from ever being able to serve at polling districts. The Republican Party is trying to further polarize American elections through marginalizing the opportunities for independent citizens. This practice is un-American and sickening; it sends the message to unaffiliated voters that they are not welcome to serve at the polling place.  

In addition to suppressing the interests of independent citizens, this bill threatens the severity to which voter fraud should and would be addressed within each ward. It is essential that people within their election district address concerns about their own voter fraud, rather than someone nominated by their county’s GOP party. Nominated GOP election officials would be present during voting to sway and enhance Republican presence; these officials do not represent the interests of the community. For this reason, voter fraud is unlikely to be addressed with the same care it would otherwise be addressed with by community members.

Undoubtedly, outsourcing officials based on party lines serves no benefit to the community. I will not encourage the Republican Party to further polarize American politics. I strongly believe that anyone- regardless of their party affiliation- should have the opportunity to work as election officials if they desire to; “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (Corinthians 12:25). As always, I am here to serve!

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