Friday, September 9, 2011

Democracy in Wisconsin Comes with a Price Tag

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A few weeks ago I noted Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin's plan to hold pay-per-view town hall meetings where constituents would have to cough up cash in order to attend his "public" meetings.  Earlier this week a Rotary Club in Milwaukee sponsored one of those events but insisted that the $15 cover fee was not to see the congressman, but rather the price of the meal included in the event.

Whatever the logic, it still cost voters $15 each if they wanted to be awash in the effluence of Congressman Ryan.

The video of that luncheon has been all over the Internet.  Several people arose one-by-one to address their congressman, and each was promptly seized by either police or Ryan's paid goons and escorted from the event.  (Ol' Paul didn't need no stinkin' questions!)  A couple were even arrested.  Forty police were at the event - but no word yet as to who paid their way in.

But it is Wisconsin - and it gets worse.

The state recently passed one of those trendy voter suppression laws that requires voters to have an official state ID.  Charging people, however, for a piece of identification whose sole purpose is to allow them to vote flies in the face of the 24th Amendment, the one that outlawed the poll tax.  So Wisconsin set up a system where voters could make a special trip to the DMV and get a free ID that would allow them to vote.

Oh, that it would be as simple as that!

This week a state senator, one of the good ones, leaked a memo that an official in the motor vehicle department (the department that oversees issuing the ID's) sent to all of the employees in that department.  The memo instructed employees to "refrain from offering" free ID's to members of the public unless they specifically asked for them.  The memo-writer justified his slimeball action by saying that he was simply trying to make sure DMV employees honored the intent of lawmakers who passed the law, which does not obligate DMV workers to tell applicants they are entitled to a free ID if they intend to vote.  The memo-writer declared, "It (the law) says the customer has to request it.  So we've taken the strict reading of the statute and that's how we've implemented it.  That's all the memo was really getting at."

And he was right in regard to the law's intent.  The "intent" of Wisconsin lawmakers was to definitely keep poor people from voting.

Today a fellow named Chris Larsen was fired by the state of Wisconsin for sending out the following mass email to all employees at his agency's headquarters:

Do you know someone who votes that does not have a State ID that meets requirements to vote?  Tell them they can go to DMV/DOT and get a free ID card.  However they must ask for the free ID.   A memo was sent out by the 3rd in command of the DMV/DOT.   The memo specifically told employees at the DMV/DOT not to inform individuals that the ID's are free.  So if the individuals seeking to get the free ID do not ask for a free ID, they will have  to pay for it! 

And poor Chris Larsen got his butt fired!  So much for Scott Walker's jobs' plan!


Xobekim said...

Good to know about this tactic, especially since Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach seems to be the alleged brain behind these types of schemes. Kansas has a similar law now.

Kobach's legal strategies keep running into the problem of Federal Preemption. Sure, the states can co-regulate, to further legitimate ends. Voter suppression isn't a legitimate end.

To date a person's economic status has not been considered to be a suspect category requiring strict scrutiny analysis by the courts.

Laws like these may provide the impetus to add poverty as a basis for bringing a civil rights case where a fundamental right is being impinged.

In my opinion voter identification laws should begin with a presumption of voter validity, with the onus being on the election official or an aggrieved party to make the case that particular voters were not duly qualified to cast a ballot.

We already have a remedy for overturning fraudulent elections. It comes in the form of one of the Great Writs, it is called Quo Warranto.

You open up an excellent question if whether the Wisconsin statute while being de jure neutral on a violation of the Twenty Fourth Amendment nevertheless is unconstitutional because of de facto violations.

If the Rotary Club was privy to the Gestapo like tactics and Ryan's Goon Squad, they may be eligible for losing their tax exempt status under 26 U.S.C. §501 (c)(4)(a). Ryan, the police, and the Goons may be amenable to suit under the civil rights act 42 U.S.C. §1983.

You sure ain't going to out Tea Party Town Hall those who wrote the book on wreaking havoc on civic meetings.

Don said...

Not much to add to a really good comment.
The folks who voted for Walker and his crew are undoubtedly similar to those who cheered for executions during the most recent Republican debate. And they cheered the man who refused to open the case of a man (Cameron Willingham) who was obviously convicted and executed on the basis of junk arson science.
I cannot even begin to imagine the feelings of a man about to die for something he didn't do. And yet our low-information voters (it's the kindest tag I can give them) persist in electing people like Perry. And Palin. And Bachmann. And Romney. Then, they raise statues to Karl Rove -- without whose satanic tactics the entire deck of cards might have collapsed.