Democracy dies in darkness because Republicans wait until after dark to kill it.
Democracy dies in darkness because Republicans wait until after dark to kill it.
That’s what happened last night, and before sunrise this morning, in Wisconsin. The state’s GOP-run state legislature used an extraordinary session to strip powers from the newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general and roll back voting rights.
When they unveiled the bills, Wisconsin’s Republican legislative chiefs — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald — wrote in a statement that “The legislature is the most representative branch in government,” as though the bills were a defense of democracy.
The truth is, Wisconsin’s GOP power grab took place precisely because the state GOP is afraid of democracy. That fear is etched all over the bills — dubbed the “Wisconsin power grab” — that lawmakers just rammed through the statehouse.
First, some critical context: in Wisconsin, the legislature is not, in fact, the most representative branch. It’s the least. In terms of vote totals, they’re the losers of the 2018 elections. Republican State Assembly candidates only racked up 46 percent of the vote, compared to 54 percent for Democrats. But because of extreme gerrymandering, they wound up with 64 percent of the State Assembly seats. In fact, there’s a chance that the gerrymandered map will be thrown out by the Supreme Court next year.
But gerrymandering can’t stop Democrats from winning statewide races. Perhaps that’s why Wisconsin Republicans just moved to stomp out early voting. Wisconsin counties set their own early voting rules, and the biggest cities — Milwaukee and Madison — allowed early voting for six weeks. Republican lawmakers claimed that this rankled their (often rural) constituents. But rather than expanding early voting to all parts of the state, they decided to limit the early vote everywhere to two weeks, in an obvious move to prevent heavily Democratic areas from repeating the high turnout that just torpedoed Republican governor Scott Walker’s bid for a third term.
Preventing future votes is one thing. But the GOP also moved to nullify the effects of votes already cast — by stripping away authority from newly elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.
The new rules block the governor and attorney general from fulfilling one of their signature campaign promises: to withdraw Wisconsin from the multistate lawsuit to torpedo the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for people with preexisting conditions.
In fact, the Republicans’ new laws would require the Republican-controlled state legislature’s permission before the attorney general can get involved in any litigation challenging a federal law. And when a state law is challenged, it would give the state legislature the right to usurp the attorney general’s authority, letting state lawmakers hire private attorneys at taxpayer expense to try the case their way.

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