Democrats blasted Republicans on Tuesday for hastily convening a hearing on how state election officials plan to handle photo identification requirements for student voters and online recall petitions, accusing the GOP of using the process to put the decisions directly in Gov. Scott Walker’s hands.
The Republican-controlled Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules called a hearing on barely 24 hours’ notice to discuss the Government Accountability Board’s new policies on student IDs and downloadable recall petitions with an eye toward directing the board to adopt rules to its liking. The committee ultimately adjourned without taking any action.
Democrats on the committee questioned why the panel was even meeting and suggested Republicans who control it wanted to give Walker, a Republican who faces a potential recall push next year, the ability to make collecting signatures against him more difficult and suppress the student vote.
A law Republicans passed earlier this year gave the governor oversight of state agency rule-making. If the rules committee ordered GAB to make changes, Walker would be able to approve or nix them.
“It’s blatantly obvious,” said committee member Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie. “It’s really voter suppression. This is so super-partisan.”
Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, one of the committee’s co-chairs, insisted the panel was simply exercising its authority to review state agencies’ policy decisions.
Republicans accomplished one of their long-held goals earlier this year when they used their majorities in the Senate and Assembly and Walker’s presence in the governor’s office to pass a bill requiring all voters to show photo identification at the polls. The requirement will begin next year.
The law allows students to use their school ID, as long as the cards expire within two years of being issued. That presents a problem for many state colleges, whose IDs generally remain valid for four or five years.
Earlier this month the GAB adopted a policy allowing schools to place temporary, two-year stickers on existing ID cards that would enable students to vote if they could also meet proof of enrollment, another requirement in the ID law. That move would allow colleges to update their cards more cheaply and quickly.