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Once a crusading, moderate-to-liberal newspaper by political persuasion, Wisconsin's largest daily, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, editorially looks more and more like a relic from the bombastic Hearst era. The paper's primary political opinion columnist is Christian Schneider, former operative for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a right-wing think tank. He replaced Patrick McIlheran, who departed to write speeches for tea-party favorite Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis).

Schneider's regularly scheduled, red-meat screeds are seldom counterbalanced -- or at least equally counterweighted -- by any other Journal Sentinel staff or guest columnist who could be labeled reliably progressive. True, the paper's own news chiefs sometimes strongly disagree with his views in their official editorials, but Schneider (who also has written for the conservative National Review) gets top play and lots of space, as in this morning's edition, where he contributes a major, mostly fact-free diatribe that occupies the top half of the opinion section's front page and considerable space on the jump page.

In this latest opus, Schneider outdoes himself, defending a new Wisconsin Republican vote-suppression scheme by trying to make the state's Democratic Party the issue. Schneider says the Democrats are so upset about a supposed "fair election hours" bill that Republicans are pushing through the state legislature that they are willing to expend considerable political capital opposing it. Schneider offered no similar insight into why Republicans are willing to expend considerable political capital of their own in support of the bill, which has been criticized not just by Democrats but also by nonpartisan voter rights groups, including the League of Women Voters. The league criticized the "fair election hours" measure and a series of other Wisconsin GOP election-related bills, labeling them anti-voter.

Schneider followed the GOP talking point, usually espoused by the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) that the bill merely standardizes early voting hours across the state's local governments. Sounds pretty fair to the Republicans supporting the measure, and at first glance it might even sound fair to most casual readers. But, like the claims of Grothman and other Republicans, Schneider's flaccid argument is without statistical merit.

"Of course, the bill won't prevent a single person from being able to vote," he wrote. Actually, based on past experience with similar laws elsewhere, it will.

The Journal Sentinel this time around did publish other views on the bill, one featuring a minority voter perspective from in-house columnist Eugene Kane and another from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Both received shorter space for their arguments, unfortunately buried on the opinion section's back page. But in just two of his paragraphs, Barrett obliterated Schneider's claim that no voters will be prevented from voting as a result of Grothman's ever-so innocent bill. The mayor of Wisconsin's largest and most heavily minority city made it simple:

Here's how this new law would affect some of Wisconsin's communities. In 2012, in the city of West Bend, 4,245 people voted in-person absentee in the presidential election. With the proposed restriction limiting early voting to 90 hours in a two-week period, West Bend would still have just about a minute and a half to work with each voter. That seems pretty fair. Menasha would have almost two full minutes per voter. Oconomowoc would have four minutes per voter. With the restriction to one site per municipality, and 36,349 early voters, the city of Milwaukee would have nine seconds per voter.

Obviously, it is not possible to confirm a voter's registration, issue a ballot and instructions in that amount of time. The result will be long, discouraging lines circling Milwaukee's City Hall.

So who is really burning political capital to make a point about the distribution of power in Wisconsin? Well, a lot of smoke is coming from the direction of Wisconsin Republicans and now the Journal Sentinel's Schneider.

Originally posted to Ron Legro on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 09:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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