The Reid Report   |  March 11, 2014

The war on voting rights in Wisconsin

Scott Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, joins The Reid Report to discuss efforts in Wisconsin by Republicans to put a stop to early voting.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> and now to wisconsin where if you can't find time to vote, then you must really have a problem. at least that's what the sponsor of the wisconsin senate 's latest voter suppression bill told msnbc back in november. today the state senate is poised to vote on senator glenn grothman 's bill to ban early voting on weekends and set weekday early hours from 8:00 a.m . to 7:00 p.m . and prevent county clerks from adjusting those hours to meet their local demands. in 2012 , wisconsin had the second highest voter participation rate in the country and early voting reached near record levels, thanks in part to laws making it easier to vote. that's in 2012 , and this despite the fact that since 2010 when republicans took over the statehouse they have been very focused on hobbling state employee unions which tend to give democrats spending parity with republicans an imposing increasing voting restrictions, so why do republicans seem so intent on cutting back voteing? democrats say the proposed changes would have the biggest impact on voters in the state's two biggest cities, milwaukee and madison, both democratic stronghold, but grothmman wants to standardize voting hours all across the states, and rules will apply to voters in the big cities and rural part of the state where republicans happen to do well. is it fair to block options for voters who work irregular hours, eliminating weekend voting hours the best way to ensure equal access to the ballot box for every eligible voter? let's ask scott ross , the executive director of one wisconsin now, a group that's trying to stop republicans from rolling back the clock on early voting . scott, these specific restrictions, are they being seen by your average wisconsin as directed as democrats, or is this sort of playing well with the fairness message that the republicans are using?

>> well, joy, first of all, congratulations on the new show. it's great to be here, and they are absolutely seeing it for what it is. i mean, wisconsin has been ground zero for voter suppression in the united states of america . rnc chair reince priebus and governor scott walker have waged an all-out assault on voting, voter purging and voter suppression and that was before they took charge of the state legislature . now we've seen an unconstitutional voter i.d. bill and seen efforts to throw out legal ballots because of minor clerical errors and we've seen an attempt to restrict access to the ballot box for legal voters. now they are going off the cliff. they want to restrict early voting in a way that's never happened before , including, as you mentioned, ending weekend voting. we need more access to the ballot box , not less.

>> and how much of this is specifically about governor walker's re-election, one of the tea party governors elected in the big sweep in 2010 and who now is going to have a harder time, if democrats are really focused? how much do you think this is really specifically about his campaign?

>> well, i think it's a huge part of that. you know, we know that if, you know, if it's a fair fight, governor walker's party does tend not to win. wisconsin hasn't gone for a republican presidential candidate since -- in 30 years. we haven't elected a republican to the u.s. senate in a presidential election since jimmy carter was on the ballot and that's why they are putting up the roadblocks because they want to restrict access to the ballot box for the people they see as their enemies, minorities, seniors, students, working families and people with disabilities.

>> and so let's talk about the counterstrategy. are we seeing unions and other groups who oppose this law doing anything on the ground to fight back?

>> absolutely? i think there is an all-out concerted effort to protect the right to vote in wisconsin , a right, i would add, is in the wisconsin constitution unlike a lot of states. i mean, that is -- that's what's so upsetting about this, is that wisconsin , as you mentioned, has the second highest voter participation and presidential elections , and that's because democrats and republicans for years and years and years considered voting to be a sacred right, that they enshrined laws that would allow access to the ballot box , that would encourage voting. we're going in the opposite direction and one of the reasons they are doing this is they are claiming there's voter fraud in the state of wisconsin as all across the country. we've had a republican attorney general who for the last seven years has pursued every possible lead. you have a better chance of going out in your driveway of clearing the snow off and seeing a ufo there than committing in person voter fraud .

>> tell us about the voter i.d. laws.

>> arguments were heard before the supreme court two weeks ago, also something going on -- also still a case still pending before the federal courts , and we'll see what happens. we're going to keep fighting for this. this fight will not end with governor wa is going to end with a judge declaring his law unconstitutional.

>> scott ross , thank you very much.

>> thank you.