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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

HARTE: Republican power grab suppresses voters’ interests

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker left office Jan. 7th

Democrat Tony Evers was sworn in as Wisconsin’s new governor Jan 7. The path to Evers’ inauguration was more controversial than expected, as outgoing Gov. Scott Walker signed several lame-duck bills in December to limit his successor’s power. These laws subvert the will of Wisconsin’s voters, representing unfair gamesmanship by the state’s top Republicans.

In politics, a lame duck refers to an elected official or group that continues to hold office during the period between the election and the inauguration of a successor. A lame duck is free to sign controversial legislation without fear of electoral backlash, as seen by the bills the Republican-controlled state legislature created and Walker signed. Major provisions of the bills include limits on early voting and new restrictions to prevent Gov. Evers from withdrawing the state from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

These changes passed despite the new direction Wisconsin’s voters expressed in November’s midterm, when Democrats won every statewide race. The bills represent voter suppression for partisan gain and a disregard for the health care preferences of the state’s voters.  

This change is counter to the interests of a majority of Wisconsin’s voters, as Evers’ support for pre-existing condition protections and the Affordable Care Act likely helped propel him to victory in November. A Marquette Law School poll from October found 82 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin said the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that pre-existing conditions be covered by insurance companies was very important to them.

On the surface, it may not seem like early voting is a partisan issue. Any measure that allows people to vote more conveniently should be widely encouraged. Wisconsinites are utilizing early voting in elections now more than ever. Almost 600,000 people voted early during the 2018 midterm, breaking the state’s record for absentee ballots returned for a midterm, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

However, the lame-duck bills include a new restriction that bans municipalities from opening early voting sooner than two weeks before an election. Larger cities like Madison and Milwaukee started early voting nearly six weeks before Election Day during the recent midterm. The cities’ voters also cast ballots overwhelmingly for Democrats. Smaller cities that lean Republican, like Brookfield and Waukesha, started about two weeks before the election. 

Madison and Milwaukee have a legitimate, nonpartisan reason for needing longer early voting periods. They have to process thousands more votes than surrounding cities. Brookfield and Waukesha also have a much higher median income than Milwaukee, according to Data USA. This allows residents more opportunity to get off work on Election Day. The legality of the new restrictions is also questionable, as a federal judge struck down a similar two-week early voting provision created by Wisconsin’s Republican state legislature in 2016.

Evers is already experiencing the effects of the lame-duck bills in his early days in office. During his campaign, Evers promised to remove Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Walker authorized the lawsuit in February, which threatens to invalidate protections for pre-existing conditions.

The lame-duck legislation requires Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul to seek approval from the state legislature to withdraw from the lawsuit. Prior to the change, the governor could direct the attorney general to make the change without approval from the legislature, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Evers sent a letter to Kaul requesting action on the lawsuit Jan. 9, despite a likely block from the legislature in the near future.

The lame-duck bills represent a partisan power grab by a party that fears its declining power over the state’s politics. Wisconsin voters should contact their state representatives to indicate their continued support for extended early voting periods and protections for pre-existing conditions. They should remember Republicans’ rule-bending and voting suppression when deciding which party to vote for in future elections. 

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