The Republican-controlled state Legislature in Wisconsin has approved new limits on the power of Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers in a lame-duck session.
Following overnight debate, lawmakers voted Wednesday to restrict Evers from following through on a campaign promise to remove Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. The bill would also limit early voting in Wisconsin and give state lawmakers more power over the state’s economic development agency, which Evers has said he would like to eliminate.
In the wee hours of the morning, the plan narrowly passed the state Senate, later the Assembly and now the bill moves to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk for his signature.
Gov.-elect Evers released a statement Wednesday morning saying Wisconsin values were “pushed aside so a handful of people could desperately usurp and cling to power while hidden away from the very people they represent.”
“Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on November 6th,” reads the statement.
And the crucial context here is that the public officials being stripped of power represent popular majorities and the legislature does not. It does no good to say “if you don’t like it, vote them out,” because Wisconsin’s undemocratic gerrymander makes this effectively impossible. And the world-historically specious arguments against judicial intervention have been taken out of the mothballs because Republican federal judges are as contemptuous of democracy as the Republican legislators are. And there’s not even any fig leaf of principle here; the argument is literally “Wisconsin voters shouldn’t get the outcomes they voted for because we don’t like them”:
I guess you can give Wisconsin Republicans credit for not pretending that they’re serving some high-minded abstract principle. They just don’t think Democrats have a right to govern, even when the voters elect them. https://t.co/x0tvCPQUkJ
— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) December 5, 2018
Democrats won all five statewide elections in Wisconsin in 2018, and Republican leaders admitted they passed the lame-duck plan to limit the power of Democratic officials. Without the new laws, “we are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. (Walker criticized lame-duck sessions before he took office in 2010.)
Republicans are undertaking similar efforts to undermine Democratic power and restrict access to the ballot in lame-duck sessions in other key swing states. In Michigan, Republicans have introduced bills to take power away from the newly elected Democratic governor and secretary of state while weakening a ballot initiative enacting Election Day registration. In Ohio, which passed a major ballot initiative in May requiring congressional redistricting reform, Republicans have introduced a proposal to make it nearly impossible to put citizen-led initiatives on the ballot in the future. And in North Carolina, where Republicans first stripped power from the Democratic governor in a lame-duck session in 2016, the GOP legislature is rushing to pass a new voter ID law before Republicans lose their supermajority in January while also pushing another bill that would give Republicans control of county election boards in election years.
These lame-duck moves are part of a broader strategy by Republicans in Wisconsin and elsewhere to hold onto power by weakening the democratic process. Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which first went into effect in 2016, disenfranchised tens of thousands of disproportionately Democratic-leaning voters and helped President Donald Trump carry the state. The redistricting plans passed by Wisconsin Republicans in 2011 are among the most gerrymandered in the country: Republican assembly candidates received 46 percent of statewide votes in 2018 but retained 64 percent of legislative seats. In other states, like Arizona, California, and Florida, Republicans have falsely accused Democrats of stealing elections and called for a premature end to the counting of ballots. Meanwhile, in North Carolina, it appears that Republicans actually committed major election fraud to help a Republican narrowly win a congressional race.
The message from Republicans is clear: They’ll do what they can to give themselves a structural advantage in an election, and when those efforts fail and Democrats manage to win, they’ll pass laws to effectively nullify those Democratic victories.