Mayor Barrett and Sen. Schultz on voting

By Bill Kaplan

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court stops Gov. Walker's voter photo ID law - which I hope - it will stay in effect. Thousands of voters will likely be turned away from the polls. So we need to face reality and help thousands get the required IDs and in some case, other documents. Thankfully, in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, the University of Wisconsin System has set up a terrific educational / nonpartisan web site, "What voting documents can I get from my UW school?" The site crosses the rural-urban divide by listing over a dozen UW campuses, reminding all of us that we are one state. 

Young adults are the future and must vote. Our political system will be revitalized if students turn out in large numbers across Wisconsin. However, there are other voters whose rights and turnout are also in jeopardy. Here Mayor Tom Barrett (D), Milwaukee, and state Sen. Dale Schultz (R), Richland Center, offer wisdom. 

In an exclusive interview Mayor Barrett said: "Democracy is the ultimate participatory sport. It works only as well as we the people make it work. If roadblocks are placed in front of us we have to learn how to navigate them." So the Milwaukee Election Commission has put in place an extraordinary web site for all citizens, "WI Voter ID Law, Free ID Card and Voter Registration", at election. Moreover, Barrett is going all out to help citizens to vote, no matter who they support. He is committed to the following (partial listing): 

* Working with community groups, students, elderly, churches and other religious institutions to explain the new voting requirements; 

* Placing educational ads on bus shelters; 

* Appearing on radio stations aimed at African-Americans; 

* Reaching out to the Milwaukee Courier with a link to the Milwaukee Election Commission web site. 

And, Milwaukee U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D) will also be involved in similar educational / nonpartisan activities to help all citizens vote. She spoke touchingly of her efforts to get a voter photo ID for Vel Phillips, former Wisconsin Secretary of State and civil rights icon (Phillips is 90 years old and lacks a driver's license). 

Then there is Sen. Dale Schultz (R) who reminds us that both political parties have great leaders. Schultz refreshingly reconsidered his initial support for voter photo ID after his rural constituents told him they "don't think voter fraud is a huge problem". He is proud to be a member of the party of Abraham Lincoln and wished that all Republicans paid homage to Lincoln. Schultz said: "It's just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it's pouring all of its energy into election mechanics". 

Unwittingly reinforcing Schultz's admonition, GOP state legislative leaders hit a new low by canceling a meeting to consider $460,000 for an ad campaign by the Government Accountability Board on the ID law. Make no mistake: this will be the most consequential gubernatorial election since Wisconsin became a state. Just imagine President Walker. 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009

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