Wisconsin Democrats, faced with the reality of a failed impeachment, a lackluster roster of 2020 hopefuls, and a booming economy, have resorted to their “Hail Mary” play by changing state law in allowing the more than 7,000 former felons back into the voting booth, just in time for the 2020 Presidential election.
The state could be a key factor in deciding the November election, considering the slim margin President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, by only 23,000 votes.
Moreover, Wisconsin factors heavily into Trump’s reelection strategy, for 2020. The state is one of three in the Midwest that are prime territory for groups that are either pro or anti-Trump, which is the primary reason why both Republicans and Democrats are targeting “get out the vote” promotions within their respective advertising campaigns.
The President, of course, has scheduled a multitude of rallies within Wisconsin, while Democratic community activists are trying to mobilize the former prison population.
Community activists believe there are thousands of former prisoners in Wisconsin who could be voting but simply don’t know the law.
According to the ACLU, one out of nine African Americans of voting age in Wisconsin is “disfranchised,” or ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction, compared to one out of 50 Wisconsin voters. African Americans comprise 5% of Wisconsin’s voting-age population, the ACLU says.
“Trump won this state by less than 1% point, so we have to care about this,” said Jerome Dillard, the group’s state director, who is African American and said he regularly meets former prisoners who believe they could be sent back to prison just for registering to vote.
However on the flip side of that equation, President Trump has done more for the African American community in terms of growing jobs and real opportunities, than any other President in modern American history. Moreover, his approval rating is currently between 20 to 35% among African American’s depending on the poll.
About two dozen states have thus far extended voting rights to convicted felons since 1997, according to The Sentencing Project, which advocates for changes in the U.S. criminal justice system.
Florida and Virginia are the most recent states to remove bans on former felons voting. In Kentucky Democratic Governor Andy Beshear restored the right to vote and hold elective office was restored to over 140,000 former prisoners.
In Wisconsin Democratic operatives are attempting to change the law further, by allowing ex-prisoners to vote when they leave prison, rather than when they complete their entire sentence, including parole.
However, that might actually be a “red-herring” for Democrats, in that the President is once again ahead of the curve, signing last year the most comprehensive federal prison reform bill in decades.
The bipartisan bill called the FIRST STEP Act reforms the current prison system, providing a safety net for released inmates to transition back into society.
White House officials noted that approximately 77% of state inmates and 38% of federal inmates are rearrested within five years of their release.
Trump admitted that he did “start off a little bit on the negative side” when it came to his opinion of the FIRST STEP Act but was persuaded after speaking to “people really involved” and by looking at the successes that states like Texas, Kentucky, Georgia and others that are “known for being tough on crime” have had passing similar reforms.
“Criminal justice reform, everybody said it couldn’t be done,” Trump said at the signing ceremony. “They said that the conservatives won’t approve it and the liberals won’t approve it. They said nobody is going to approve it; everybody is going to be against it. It has been many years, numerous decades and nobody came close.”
What seems apparent is that the more progressive Democrats and activists attempt to gin up votes against the President, regardless if it’s in Wisconsin or another battleground state, attempting to register ex-felons or African Americans, the President has a compelling and winning record to run on.