Start of Wisconsin Voter ID Trial Looks Bad for GOP

     MADISON, Wis. (CN) — Wisconsin Republican lawmakers were “giddy” at the prospect of limiting voting among racial minorities, a legislative aid testified Monday at the start of a federal voter-identification trial.
     Todd Allbaugh, a former chief of staff for Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz, was the first witness One Wisconsin Now called to the stand for a bench trial on claims that lawmakers adopted new requirements, such as limited early voting and voter ID rules, to discriminate against traditionally Democratic voters.
     When Wisconsinites hit the polls for the state’s presidential primary on April 5, Allbaugh posted on Facebook that Republican legislators were “giddy” at the prospect of limiting votes.
     Clarifying this post for the court, Allbaugh pointed to private remarks that he said Sen. Mary Lazich had given in 2011, saying the rules would influence the ability to vote on college campuses and “around the neighborhoods in Milwaukee,” implying suppression of “minority” votes.”
     “They were politically frothing at the mouth,” Allbaugh testified.
     When Sen. Schultz complained vocally that Wisconsin’s voter ID laws would trample civil rights, U.S. Rep. Glen Grothman dismissed those concerns, Allbaugh said.
     “What I’m concerned about here is winning,” the then-state-legislator told the Republican caucus in the meeting, as quoted Monday by Allbaugh.
     This incident caused Allbaugh to leave the Republican Party, he said.
     Lazich did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
     Allbaugh told the court that his Facebook post led Grothman to pester reporters for his business phone number, which he then used to call him and suggest he was not “understanding things right.”
     A representative for Grothman’s Wisconsin office reached over the phone for comment said the congressman is in Washington, D.C., but Grothman was not available at his capital office.
     The congressman’s press secretary, Tyler Houlton, has not returned emails seeking comment.
     Assistant Attorney General Clayton “Clay” Kawski objected throughout Allbaugh’s testimony, questioning its relevance and its status as hearsay.
     U.S. District Judge James Peterson said he would decide the issue later. He is presiding over the trial without a jury.
     Attorneys for One Wisconsin Now, the group behind the voter-ID challenge, also played audio of Allbaugh’s former employer, Dale Schultz, talking on conservative radio about his dwindling support for the Republican Party.
     “I’m not willing to defend them anymore,” Schultz told the host of The Devil’s Advocates in March 2014 after talking about the voter ID laws.
     One Wisconsin Now then turned to the people, and their families, who have been unable to vote because they could not get an ID.
     Though the state claims all these individuals have since been issued documents allowing them to vote, at least two did not vote in the competitive April local and primary election.
     Nannette Mayze, whose 74-year-old father has speech difficulties resulting from several strokes, testified that her father’s Mississippi birth certificate lists an incorrect spelling of his name, thus far allowing the DMV to deny him an ID, she told the court.
     During opening statements for the plaintiff, Perkins Coie attorney Joshua Kaul mentioned one voter whom the state turned down because his German birth certificate was lost in a fire, related to his imprisonment in a Holocaust concentration camp.
     Two black women born in the Jim Crow-era South literally died awaiting an ID, Kaul said. The state has since characterized these petitions as “customer-initiated cancellations,” he said.
     Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed an “emergency rule” days before the trial allowing residents awaiting ID from the state Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a receipt that allowed them to vote, even if they had not yet presented the required documentation.
     “Voter I.D. is about making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Walker said in a statement May 11. “This action ensures an individual is still able to vote while they work to obtain documentation needed for a free voter I.D. card.”
     While the plaintiffs characterized this and other state actions as a scramble to make the laws appear reasonable, Kawski expressed amusement that they would view fewer restrictions as “nefarious.”
     Judge Peterson said there are 63 witnesses in the trial, which is set to end Thursday, May 26.
     The trial comes roughly two months after the court advanced claims that the state violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

%d bloggers like this: