April 8, 2015


One Walker legacy: making the political process more favorable to GOP (Craig Gilbert, 4/07/15,  Journal Sentinel)

Since they came to power in 2011, Walker and his party have not only changed the way the state is governed, but they have changed the political playing field.

In a few big ways and lots of little ways, they have seemingly made it easier for Republicans and harder for Democrats to win elections.

Whichever way the pendulum swings next year, the 2016 race will be contested under a different set of political rules than those of previous decades, rules adopted by one party over the ardent opposition of the other.

The most consequential of these changes involve redistricting, which has given the GOP a virtual lock on the Legislature, and Act 10, which disarmed a critical Democratic election ally, public employee unions.

But the changes also involve an extensive rewrite of the state's election rules.

A high court decision last month removed the last big legal obstacle to the 2011 law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. That policy will be in place for the 2016 presidential, congressional and legislative contests.

Early voting has been cut short, and banned on weekends. And the rules have been altered in myriad smaller ways, from the numbers of days voters need to establish residency in their voting precincts to the elimination of the straight-ticket voting option.

It's impossible to know the partisan impact of each of these changes. Some are too new or haven't taken effect yet, such as photo ID. Some may have little to no effect. In general, changes in campaign and election rules have a lot less impact on which party wins than shifts in public opinion and the political climate.

But taken together, these changes represent the most significant makeover of Wisconsin's political system in decades. And while other states controlled by Republicans have adopted some of the same changes, few have done so as aggressively and systematically as Wisconsin has under Walker.

"One side is fundamentally rewriting the rules," says political scientist Ken Mayer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Posted by at April 8, 2015 10:07 AM

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