Vol. 6    No. 3
February 10, 2011

The Capital City Hues
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    It seems like it was just yesterday when President Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by a relatively
large vote margin in 2008 and the Democrats held majorities in both houses of the state legislature. It was
considered by many to be a Blue State, which signifies that the majority of those who vote in a state tend to
vote Democratic.
    But then came the Big Red Wave of the 2010 election cycle that swept the Republican Party into power
with the election of Governor Scott Walker and Republican majorities in both houses of the state
legislature. I had personally never seen so much political change in two years before.
    Now I would guess that most political pundits still consider Wisconsin to be a swing state which can go
Democratic or Republican according to the way that the political winds are blowing. Republican now and
perhaps Democratic again in two years when the electorate is still angry about the lack of living-wage jobs.
But with the Republicans firmly in control of the state’s policy-making apparatus, it appears that they may do
all in their power to make Wisconsin a permanent Red State. Take redistricting, for example. Every 10
years, federal and state governments must revise their voting districts according to the results of the U.S.
Census to preserve the ‘one-person, one vote’ rule and to make sure that population shifts don’t cause one
district to have 5,000 voters, for example, while another has 10,000. This would be considered to be
unequal representation.
    The party in power, in essence, gets to decide how those election boundaries are drawn. Wisconsin has
33 state senators — with 19 of them Republican — and 99 representatives — with 60 Republicans. In order
to hold each house, the Republicans need 17 senators and 50 representatives. Now some of their seats will
be Republican for the foreseeable future because of the vast number of Republicans who reside in a certain
area. The same holds true for Democrats.
    But there are some districts that swing Democrat or Republican depending on the issues of the day. And
this is where who controls redistricting becomes crucial. In order to ensure that they will have majorities in
the senate and the assembly for a long time to come, they can redistrict some of those swing districts so
that they hold just enough Republicans to make them lean Republican in most elections. Now this can’t be
done with all of the swing districts. But in the senate, you just need to change a couple and in the assembly,
a handful. Redistricting will have a huge impact on Wisconsin’s electoral landscape.
    Another development is SB 6, which I will call Wisconsin’s REAL ID Act. It is sponsored by 20 state
senators and 46 assemblymen, so it is almost assured of passage. This bill will require people to submit
Wisconsin drivers’ licenses or Wisconsin ID cards in order to vote. No longer will someone be able to
vouch for you or you can bring a copy of your utility bill or lease to prove that you live where you do. This
also applies to absentee voters.
    With the passage of this bill, I expect that Wisconsin’s voting percentages will go down, with the
decrease in the electorate exercising their constitutional rights trending Democratic. Last year, I moved. I
waited a while to change my driver’s license until my stash of checks with my old address on them ran out.
I hate having to cross out all of that stuff when writing a check. And I hate to waste unused checks. So to
be honest, this new bill would have disqualified me from voting in the April, September and November
elections last year. And I am pretty conscientious about these things.
    I would expect this bill also to disenfranchise a whole lot of college students who live in Madison and
other college towns. Most college students keep their parents’ home addresses as their permanent
addresses until they graduate from college and so, their drivers’ licenses reflect their parents’ addresses.
So they will be faced with the prospect of traveling across state on voting day to vote or foregoing the
opportunity.
    Others who might be disenfranchised will be poor folks who have lost their drivers’ licenses, homeless
individuals and others.
    The justification for this bill is that it will cut down on fraudulent voting. If my memory serves me
correctly, it has been just a handful of people who have been caught voting illegally. And let’s say they
were just the tip of the iceberg and several hundred vote illegally who will be prevented from doing so with
this REAL ID bill. Well I think this bill will disenfranchise thousands of legitimate voters in order to prevent
the hundred from wrongly voting. You take away people’s rights by setting up a huge bureaucratic process
— something I thought Republicans opposed — that throws out the baby with the bathwater.
    I suspect this bill will decrease the number of people voting Democratic. The Republicans may be putting
into place mechanisms that will ensure they retain political power in Wisconsin for years to come. And that
sounds downright undemocratic. Think about it.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling   
                    Red State Permanency

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