Former Wisconsin GOP staffer testifies that voter ID law was passed to win elections

Todd Albaugh, former chief of staff to a Republican state senator in Wisconsin, testified in federal court yesterday that his state’s voter ID law was passed in order to make it more difficult for Democrats to win elections.

According to Allbaugh, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, “State Sen. Mary Lazich, urging fellow Republican senators to enact a voter ID requirement in a closed-door meeting in 2011, told her colleagues to consider its impact in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and the state’s college campuses” and “Congressman Glenn Grothman, serving at that time as a state senator, said in the same meeting that he supported voter ID because it would help Republicans win elections.” Allbaugh also quoted Grothman as saying in a closed-door meeting with his Republican colleagues that “What I’m concerned about here is winning,” with respect to his justification for voting in favor of the law.

Per previous testimony, roughly 300,000 citizens of Wisconsin lack photo identification, and they are disproportionately low-income, young and non-white — all constituencies that just so happen to cast most of their votes for Democrats.

Yesterday was the first day of the trial in a federal lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s laundry list of changes to its election laws, including its voter ID provision. Those changes range from restrictions on voter registration drives to reductions in early voting days to requiring citizens who move in-state within four weeks of Election Day to vote at their old address. They even prohibited municipal clerks from giving citizens the opportunity to correct errors on absentee ballots.

The extent of Wisconsin’s voting restrictions aren’t limited to the letters of its new laws, however. The implementation of Wisconsin’s new voting provisions has compounded difficulties for low-income and minority voters to access the ballot box. As the Wisconsin State Journal continued:

Congressman Glenn Grothman (R - WI), on the right, screenshot via YouTube

Congressman Glenn Grothman (R – WI), on the right, screenshot via YouTube

Others testifying in Monday’s trial spoke of difficulties they encountered to get special IDs for voting from the state Department of Transportation. One woman testified her elderly father, born in Mississippi during the Jim Crow period, was unable to get an ID because his name was misspelled on his birth certificate.

As the Brennan Center for Justice has reported, “the only ID issuing office in Sauk City, Wisconsin is open 8:15 a.m. – 4 p.m. on the fifth Wednesday of each month. There are only 4 fifth Wednesdays in 2016.”

Wisconsin also never funded the public education campaign that its own voter ID law required, a fact that attorneys for the plaintiffs in this week’s trial made sure to note in the proceedings.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Republicans in Wisconsin passed voter ID in order to win elections, but it’s the first time names have been named…in court. It’s not like we didn’t know what the deal was, though. Last month, Congressman Grothman (the same one from above) let slip on live television that he thought Hillary Clinton would lose his state in November because “now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is gonna make a little bit of a difference as well.”

To paraphrase Marco Rubio, let’s dispel with this fiction that Wisconsin Republicans didn’t know what they were doing. They knew exactly what they were doing.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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