Ex-Staffer: Wisconsin GOPers Cheered Voter ID Bill For What It ‘Could Do For Us’

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A former top staffer for a Republican legislator in Wisconsin suggested this week that GOP legislators were motivated to pass the state’s tough photo voter ID law because they believed it would help them at the ballot box, an account he expanded on in a Wednesday interview with TPM.

Todd Allbaugh, who served as chief of staff for state Sen. Dale Schultz (R) until the legislator retired in 2015, first made the claims in a Tuesday Facebook post that caught the attention of national voting rights experts.

In the post, Allbaugh recalled a 2011 caucus meeting of GOP state senators about the voter ID legislation. Allbaugh said during that meeting, some Republicans were “giddy” over the legislation’s “ramifications” and the effect it would have on minority and young voters.

Once he left politics, Allbaugh opened a Madison, Wisconsin, coffee shop, where TPM reached him over the phone and he elaborated on those claims.

“It just really incensed me that they started talking about this particular bill, and one of the senators got up and said, ‘We really need to think about the ramifications on certain neighborhoods in Milwaukee and on our college campuses and what this could do for us,’” Allbaugh said. “The phrase ‘voter suppression’ was never used, but it was certainly clear what was meant.”

While Schultz, Allbaugh’s former boss, has notably spoken out against more recent restrictions on voting, he voted for the 2011 bill. According to Allbaugh, at this point in the point of meeting, Schultz brought up his own concerns with the voter ID legislation.

“He was immediately shot down by another senator who said, ‘What I am interested in is getting results here and using the power while we have it, because if the Democrats were in control they would do they same thing to us, so I want to use it while we have it,’” Allbaugh said.

Allbaugh said Schultz left the meeting in frustration after that, while he stayed behind to continue taking notes.

“It left a pit in my stomach to think that a party that I had worked for for years and years and years was literally talking and plotting to deny someone, a fellow citizen, their constitutional right,” Allbaugh said.

Allbaugh told TPM he was stirred to write the initial Facebook post after one of his young employees, who had moved from California to Wisconsin, was unable to vote Tuesday. Albaugh said that because the employee’s California ID did not meet the state’s requirements to vote, he was told he needed to show his California birth certificate, which the employee was not going to be able to produce in time.

“When you see the real world ramification, it just sickens you,” Allbaugh said. “I have to tell people what’s going on.”

Schultz was asked about Allbaugh’s Facebook post on Wednesday by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The former lawmaker said he would not discuss what happened in a closed door meeting, but praised Allbaugh for his “honesty and integrity,” which Schultz said were “beyond reproach.”

By coincidence, after Allbaugh’s Facebook post went up, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) told a local TV station that the Wisconsin photo ID law would help Republicans win in November’s election. Grothman served in the state Senate from 2005-2015.

Allbaugh said he didn’t want to name names from his account of the 2011 caucus meeting, but he confirmed that Grothman was in the room.

“He has outed himself,” Allbaugh said. “He was one of those that was saying these things.”

Grothman’s office on Wednesday night did not immediately return a request for comment from TPM.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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