April 9, 2005
Phase One: less democracy
By Jason Haas
The two years I was living in the state of Georgia taught me a great deal about what it meant to be a Wisconsinite. For one thing, we trust people. It's an intrinsic Midwestern quality to take people at their word and believe their actions are made in good faith. Second, we value the involvement of fellow Wisconsinites in our communities and our government. I did not see this in Savannah. Because I was there between elections, I never had the opportunity to vote.
Returning to Wisconsin, I felt more at home and welcome in a place where people trusted each other. Even though I had just moved back to the state, presenting the lease for my apartment was all I needed to provide to vote in the fateful 2000 election. This was all the proof I needed to present in order to register to vote on the day of the election.
Fast forward to 2005. The state Legislature is now filled with Republicans who do not seem to have this trust in their fellow Wisconsinites. This is evident in the voter ID bill, which if passed would require each would-be voter to show a state photo ID before being allowed to vote. In other words, the state government is saying, "I don't trust you."
The distrust does not stop there. State Republican Party chairman Rick Graber went on the record at the March 21 hearing on the bill saying the voter ID bill is just part of a larger plan by Republicans to alter Wisconsin's election laws. In addition to distrusting the voters, they want to eliminate a voter's ability to register to vote on election day. Had this pillar of Wisconsin's progressive legacy been eliminated five years ago, I and countless other citizens would have been turned away at the polls.
The voter ID bill flies in the face of the characteristics that make Wisconsin such an appealing place to live. When the Republicans passed a similar voter ID bill in 2003, Gov. Doyle was quick to strike it down. Should this latest act of distrust pass the state Senate, Doyle should make good on his promise and veto its successor.
(Jason Haas maintains The Dyskeptic Web log.)
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