Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


GOP efforts to restrict voting access reflect antidemocratic values

Attempted lawsuit against Milwaukee mayor challenges important voting rights initiatives
Shane Fruchterman

The right to vote belongs to all American citizens. The 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments ensure that this right is protected, no matter a person’s race, religion, social standing or gender. Voting is a concrete right in this country. While it should not be a partisan issue, but it has become one.

The Revolutionary War itself was founded in the idea that the people of a nation should have a voice in their government. Patriots fought to replace the distant rule of the British monarchy in the colonies with a democracy, where the general population gets to decide their laws and their leaders. In a democratic regime, the power belongs to the people. On paper, the government works on behalf of the people’s will.

Despite this, the Economist Democracy Index of 2021 identifies the United States as a “flawed democracy” and ranks it as one of the lowest among developed nations. Something is wrong with America’s democratic system — and the heart of the issue lies in voting.


Even after the right to vote for all citizens was put in writing in the Constitution, many barriers to voting were put in place to hinder certain demographics, especially Black people, from voting. The 26th Amendment eliminated poll taxes but other restrictions like the accessibility of polling locations and absentee voting still caused many people — particularly poor, communities of color — difficulty. 

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One contentious barrier to voting is the requirement of photo ID to vote, which was recently put into Wisconsin law on June 22. Bringing an ID to the polls seems like a simple and easy task for most Americans, but it can prove to be significantly harmful to voter turnout rates, seeing as 11% of US citizens do not have one. 

Photo ID requirements particularly hurt minority voting rates because according to reports from the NAACP, 25% of Black citizens and 16% of Latinx citizens do not have IDs in comparison to only 8% of white people. Often the reason for not having an ID is a result of monetary limitations.

Even if states offer IDs for free, it costs money to drive to DMVs, pay for birth certificates and take time off of work to get one. For these reasons, requiring photo ID reduces voter turnout, especially for the groups of people whose voices are already buried underneath layers of historical oppression and systematic racism.

On Sept. 12, Mayor Cavalier Johnson of Milwaukee promoted a program to combat voting barriers and engage more people in the election process. The program, “Milwaukee Votes 2022”, was going to use door-to-door canvassing to get out the vote, and the mayor clearly expressed his support of the initiative. 

The Wisconsin GOP was not happy with this, and tried suing Johnson, though the suit was dismissed.

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Republicans based the lawsuit on the idea that the city of Milwaukee should not be working with organizations to increase voting, particularly the Milwaukee Votes 2022 Canvas, because they are funded and operated by Democrats and liberal donors. 

The Wisconsin GOP is afraid of higher voter turnout in Milwaukee because Milwaukee is an urban center with many more Democrats than Republicans. Conversely, Democrats want to make sure all voters in the Milwaukee area are aware of their right to vote and are educated on how to do it. 

While it is sensible for Wisconsin’s Republican Party to react with fear to the potential of more Democratic votes, it is antidemocratic for the party to try to get in the way of voter outreach initiatives by using the excuse that city officials should not be involved. All levels of American government should be able to invest in making voting more accessible to more people, whether they align with Democratic or Republican ideas.

Elected officials encouraging people to vote allows them to better understand and serve the needs of the governed population. Especially in Milwaukee, one of America’s most segregated cities, the right to vote must be protected. For this country to be truly for the people and by the people, the people need to participate.

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Therefore, the opposition of the Wisconsin GOP to the city’s involvement in expanding voter turnout is a direct attack on America’s democratic values. All American citizens can and should have the opportunity to exercise the power of their voice.

Still, even if voter expansion campaigns could carry on their missions without obstacles,  barriers remain in the state of Wisconsin, such as the new photo ID law, which discourages some people from practicing their right to vote. Wisconsin, a swing state, cannot afford to let anything get in the way of encouraging more voters.

The state needs to rally for the upcoming election and reinvigorate a democratic attitude that serves all of its people. Votes are voices, and voices can be powerful when joined together. This November, the people of Wisconsin need to show up and show out. 

Isa Whitten ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in education studies.

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