Senate President Mike Ellis, under pressure from Gov. Scott Walker and the out-of-state political interests that seek to game our politics, lost it last week.
The Neenah Republican was literally sputtering, grumbling “shut up” and banging his gavel in order to silence senators who sought to raise legitimate objections about the rush to pass a voter ID bill. The legislation in question was written by Washington-based political strategists with an eye toward disenfranchising students, the elderly, people of color and low-income urban and rural citizens going into the 2012 presidential election.
Ellis tried to silence the senior member of the Wisconsin Legislature — indeed, the senior legislator in the nation — but state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, calmly continued to outline the fundamental flaws in the voter ID bill. Ellis and his Republican colleagues may not have wanted to hear it, but Risser was saying something important, something every Wisconsinite should recognize.
“This legislation is nothing more than a voter suppression measure. It will have a significant negative effect on the ability of many individuals — seniors, students, rural residents, and people with disabilities — to vote,” said the state senator.
“Supporters argue this measure is necessary to stop voter fraud, which has proven to be practically nonexistent in Wisconsin. The truth is that the bill’s supporters want to impose as many roadblocks as possible to make it more difficult for certain segments of the population to vote,” he added. “Wisconsin should work to find ways to strengthen election procedures and voter turnout without erecting additional barriers to disenfranchise our citizens.”
Those are hardly the sort of incendiary remarks that needed to be silenced by the Senate president’s gavel. But they do represent the truth. And in Wisconsin these days, there are a lot of powerful people who fear the truth.