MacIver News Service | March 28, 2019
By Bill Osmulski
MILWAUKEE – Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been spending a lot of time in Wisconsin lately. He’s been here at least three times in the past year. In March, he met with his favorite community activist organization, Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC).
“I’m glad to be here. I salute you for the great work you’ve done. I look forward to working with you over the course of this year and next year and then even beyond that, I think what the deal is we have to play the long game,” Holder said.
Holder heads a group called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC). Redrawing Wisconsin’s voting districts is one of its top priorities.
“This state, in some ways, is ground zero for gerrymandering,” Holder claimed. “Democrats win more votes for the Assembly than Republicans do, and yet have far fewer numbers of Democratic Assembly people in the state Legislature.”
That’s because districts are drawn according to population, not according to voter turnout. And that’s because elected officials are supposed to represent everyone that lives in their districts – not just those who vote.
Also, Holder sees something sinister in the way Wisconsin draws its voting districts – by duly elected officials in the state capitol.
“Before it was Scott Walker and a Republican Legislature. They were the ones drawing the lines. You know literally, literally. They were drawing the lines in a room off the floor of the Wisconsin Legislature. They were drawing the lines in a small group and then said, okay vote on these,” he said.
There will be no excuses this time around now that a Democrat – Governor Tony Evers will be at the table.
But Holder’s work in Wisconsin is far from done. He also wanted to hear about supposed voter suppression efforts in Milwaukee – and this group gave him plenty of fodder… mostly involving people not knowing where to vote.
One BLOC staff member said, “There are different locations too. If you’re not registered there, they make you go somewhere else.”
Another offered, “Or sometimes when you move. So, once you move, you’re outside of the district and then you have to reregister for whatever polling area it is.”
A third described her own difficulties. “I don’t know how they could get a system to be able where people know exactly where to go and vote. Because they get discouraged when they get turned away after waiting in lines for hours. You’re just like forget it.”
Although these are all problems that trace back to the democrat dominated city hall in Milwaukee, Holder had a different message.
“This is all part of that voter suppression effort that you see that Scott walker and the Republicans put in place. These aren’t accidents. These aren’t accidents. They don’t know which place to go to. You get ballots late, you don’t have the right ID. This is all part of a system put in place that was designed to keep people who are perceived to be Democrats, people of color, away from the polls.”
Then there’s the issue that you can’t vote in Wisconsin with an Illinois driver’s license.
One student from Beloit said, “If you didn’t have a Wisconsin ID, I had to turn people away. People came with Illinois ids and they couldn’t vote.”
Holder’s daughter, a student at UW-Madison, said, “A lot of students, even though we’ve lived in Wisconsin for three-plus years, you need a passport if you’re not from Wisconsin, if you don’t have a Wisconsin ID. So, a lot of times, kids didn’t have their passports because you don’t walk around with your passport on you. So, I had to turn – I was a pollster- and I had to turn a lot of people away because they didn’t have their passports on them.”
By the way, state law requires new residents to trade in their old driver’s license for a Wisconsin driver’s license within 60 days of establishing residency here. But that never came up in this meeting.
But it won’t be long before Holder is back here for another meeting, and then another after that.
“A year from now, I’ll probably be here again. There will also be another Supreme Court seat up in 2020.”