Wisconsin voters are out in force today in the hours leading up to an attempted soft coup by Republicans to entrench their power despite losing the November 6 election.
“We’re strongly encouraging people to call their local representative, to call their state senator and their assembly representative and vote ‘no’ on this fast track bill to (steal) power,” Andrea Kaminski, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin League of Women Voters, told Grit Post. “Call outgoing governor Scott Walker about what he wants his legacy to be, because this legislation will cost the state of Wisconsin untold tax dollars and hurt our balance of power in this state.”
Republicans began a lame-duck power grab with three bills that could limit the powers of Governor-elect Tony Evers and the Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul. The GOP-dominated legislature held a marathon overnight session on the bills in an effort to curb sober public input, and is debating the package in the full legislature today as protesters fill the capitol grounds.
Despite the freezing weather, Wisconsin is here to push back against the #WIpowergrab. Keep making your voices heard, keep calling your legislators. Fight the #GOPcoup. #RespectMyVote pic.twitter.com/pu7OeRTYVj
— Indivisible Madison (@IndivisMadison) December 4, 2018
— The Progressive (@theprogressive) December 4, 2018
— Rep. Melissa Sargent (@RepSargent) December 4, 2018
Voters sent a message last month by ousting the GOP governor and attorney general, but the GOP reacted by trying to neuter Evers’s ability to run state agencies. They want to force him to seek the approval of the GOP-dominated legislature before making appointments, and are punching through a slew of government nominees to assure that the next Democrat’s term will be dominated by Walker appointments, according to Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now.
The GOP package would also kill Evers’ power to approve major actions by Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul and give that authority to Republican lawmakers. Ross said the purpose of that is to keep Kaul from withdrawing Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The lawsuit was largely rejected by Wisconsin voters but is still popular to the GOP, which opposes widely-available healthcare.
The party is also making direct moves against the voters who elected their opponents by cutting early voting down from six weeks to two, and by changing the date of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary in an effort to depress turnout for a separate state Supreme Court election scheduled that same day.
Ross warned that the GOP attack on voting rights will inevitably be snarled in court.
“We’re the plaintiff in a lawsuit that restored early voting in Wisconsin, and them going back to say they’re going to limit it literally flies in the face of what the judge wrote in his order. Our lawyer said that if they do pass the attack on early voting we will submit a contempt filing,” Ross told Grit Post.
In 2016, One Wisconsin Institute, et. al. v. Thomsen, et. al. struck down the racially motivated restrictions on the hours and days of early voting imposed by Wisconsin Republicans, in addition to other restrictions. Kaminski accused the GOP of trying to make an end-run around the state law barring such undemocratic behavior by changing the law itself. She warned that the decision to alter the law upon which the federal judge based his decision would take only a simple majority vote.
“We are obviously concerned about them trying to change the law, particularly regarding weekend voting, because this could impact black turn-out in Wisconsin, just as the judge said. Many black churches organize voting among their members on Sunday.”
Ironically, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) issued a statement last week claiming the GOP’s neutering of Democrats was a way of ensuring that “Wisconsin law… should not be erased by potential political maneuvering.”
Ross, who called Vos a “lying sack of garbage,” said “irony” didn’t fit the description of Vos’ November press release.
“‘Irony’ is not the word I’d use for that. ‘Gut-busting hypocrisy’ is the word I’d use,” said Ross, who warned that the voting public was turning away from Republicans, and that the party was further hurting themselves with “banana republic behavior.”
Organizing against an openly despotic party will be easier in upcoming years, he said, and voting trends are already suggesting a harder road for the majority, as indicated by election results, including those for the state supreme court that the GOP is so desperate to own.
“Just a few years ago the [conservative] advantage on the court was 5/2. Now it’s 4/3. It’s one of the reasons they wanted to move the presidential primary to March of 2020: to impact voter turnout,” Ross told Grit Post.
The attempt to move the election to March, at least, appears dead for now, but protests are ongoing at the state capitol.