The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin was dumbfounded.
Wisconsin's chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Brad Schimel, appeared on a right-wing talk show and made a preposterous claim: Donald Trump wouldn't have taken Wisconsin and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson wouldn't have won re-election last November if the state's voter ID law hadn't been in effect.
What was this partisan Republican talking about?
Was he actually insinuating that there are so many illegal voters in Wisconsin that they would have negated Trump's 22,000-vote margin in the state and Johnson's 99,000-vote victory? And that every single one of those people would have voted for Hillary Clinton for president and Democrat Russ Feingold for Senate?
Republicans have made some incredible claims about so-called voter fraud over the years, but Schimel takes the cake, unless, of course, you consider that pathological liar we call the president who claims 3 million "illegals" voted for Clinton and caused him to lose the popular vote in 2016.
If Schimel's claims were true, the league's executive director Erin Grunze asked, then why in his tenure as attorney general has he been unable to identify and prosecute a single case of voter impersonation in Wisconsin?
Because the answer is simple: There is no such thing as voter fraud in Wisconsin's elections. Oh, out of millions of votes cast in past elections, there have been a handful of cases where someone tried to vote twice (usually a Republican), but the real fraud is Schimel and his GOP cohort ramming through a voter ID law that shamefully denies eligible voters their rights as citizens.
The truth is that Schimel may be right that were it not for voter ID, Trump and Johnson may not have won. But it wasn't because illegal votes were thwarted, but because eligible votes were tragically suppressed.
How well we remember former GOP state Sen. Mary Lazich, one of the leaders of the Scott Walker-led cabal on voter ID, who claimed that "not a single voter in this state will be disenfranchised by the ID law." And then how well we remember reading the accounts of hundreds of Wisconsinites who wound up being turned away at the polls because they didn't have specific IDs or couldn't register because they couldn't obtain a birth certificate.
Following the 2016 election, Dane County funded a study with UW-Madison that looked at the specific effects of the law on voting patterns in Dane and Milwaukee counties. The study found that Wisconsin's law deterred about 11 percent of survey respondents from voting — that corresponds to nearly 17,000 voters in the two counties. Undoubtedly, many thousands of other voters statewide were disenfranchised too.
In fact, the lower Milwaukee numbers were most pronounced in black neighborhoods, where 77 percent of the voters picked Clinton. African-Americans, the handicapped and the elderly are typically the most affected by suppression methods like voter ID.
Yet, our attorney general is insisting that this scurrilous law, which in reality is patterned after the Jim Crow laws that kept minorities from voting 50 years ago, protected people like Trump and Johnson from "fraud."
It's once again proof that the people in charge of running our state have no shame.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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