Walker Failure

The 12 Biggest Failures of Gov. Scott Walker

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1. Attacked working families, stripping the rights of 175,000 workers

Walker campaigned on stripping policy and pork projects from the state budget. “It should not be about horse trading for special interest groups or establishing talking points for the next campaign.” By eliminating Wisconsin’s 30-year collective bargaining law in this budget adjustment bill (2011 AB 11), Walker broke his campaign promise. 

This assault on working class families had no fiscal impact on the budget. It closed not one dime of the budget deficit and creates not a single job.  

This was legislation designed to take away power from the everyday worker and tilt the balance even more towards Walker’s corporate CEO cronies and campaign donors.

Walker undercut workers and put downward pressure on middle class wages in order to pay for his $2 billion in special interest spending on CEOs and his corporate cronies. 

The purpose of the Budget Repair Bill was to destroy workers’ rights to ask for fair wages. It’s the same partisan attacks we always see – people in power punishing their enemies instead of doing what they promised to do.  

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2. Slashed $1.6 billion from public schools

…while handing out $35 million for private school vouchers in Milwaukee County

Walker’s budget, signed into law on June 20, 2011,  cut school aids by approximately $800 million. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau Memo, “2011-13 Comparative Summary of Budget Recommendations,” June 2011, puts the total cuts to education at $793 million. [2011 Assembly Bill 40]

In addition, Walker cut base revenue per pupil under revenue limits for each school district by 5.5% in FY12 and repealed the guarantee that total school district base revenues in the current fiscal year must be maintained at the prior year level. Statewide revenue limit authority is estimated to be reduced by: $706,182,900 in FY12 and $902,008,600 in FY13 compared to current law ($275/pupil increase in FY12 and $280.50 in FY13). Total reduction of $1,608,191,500 over the biennium. [DPI Budget Summary

The 2011 budget also expanded participation in the Milwaukee voucher program at a biennial cost of $19.3 million, and expanded the voucher program to Racine ($4.8 million). [Legislative Fiscal Bureau “2011-13 Comparative Summary of Budget Recommendations,” June 2011; Racine Journal Times, 6/2/2011]

The legislature also let stand Walker’s budget provision that re-estimated costs for the Milwaukee Choice program at an additional $3.2 million. These two actions increased funding for Milwaukee voucher schools by $22.5 million.

In addition, Walker and the GOP controlled legislature added $16.3 million in spending on 2r charters for the 2011-13 biennium. According to the LFB analysis, that added at least $14 million to the 2r charter program in Milwaukee (Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Budget Paper #553, p. 6).

Unlike other charter school programs across the state that are run by school districts, 2r independent charters are not accountable through the democratic process of local control. As opposed to charter schools sponsored by school boards that are staffed by public employees, 2r charters more closely resemble private schools in their staffing, management and accountability than they do public schools.

The combination of the increase in spending on the Milwaukee voucher program and 2r charters in Milwaukee is at least $36 million. [2011 Assembly Bill 40]

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3. Made devastating cuts to our health care programs

$500 million cut from Medical Assistance, including BadgerCare; cut programs that help seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes by $284 million and froze enrollment.

The 2011 budget cut $500 million from Medical Assistance programs, including BadgerCare. The proposal does not exclude any specific groups from receiving the program cuts, which means seniors and people with disabilities, who account for 20% of total Medicaid enrollment and 67% of total Medicaid spending, will likely be impacted by the cuts. At the end of January 2011, nearly 300,000 seniors and people with disabilities were enrolled in Medicaid-related programs. [2011 Assembly Bill 40; Disability Rights Wisconsin Fact Sheet]

In addition, Walker cut FamilyCare spending by more than $284 million over the biennium and freeze enrollment (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/20/2011). FamilyCare helps around 35,000 seniors and disabled stay independent at home and in their communities. [Disability Rights Wisconsin Fact Sheet]

Walker’s 2011 budget adjustment bill, signed into law on March 11, 2011 that stripped the rights of 175,000 workers, also contained reckless health care cutbacks that would allow the state to cut up to 70,000 from Wisconsin health care programs, and could result in deep reductions in benefits for children and seniors. [January 2011 Special Session Assembly Bill 11]   

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4. Raised taxes on seniors and working families by $70 million, while giving $2 billion in tax cuts to corporations and the rich

The two tax increases on working families in Walker’s budget were changing the Earned Income Tax Credit program (EITC) and removing the indexing of inflation from the homestead property tax relief program. 

The change to the EITC totals $56 million over the biennium:

“The cuts to the earned income credit would total $56.2 million over two years, $12.7 million more than the cuts proposed by Walker, according to the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has described Walker’s proposal as a state income tax increase.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

The change to the Homestead program results in a $13.6 million tax increase:

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo detailing the tax increases in Walker’s original budget is here: [Legislative Fiscal Bureau

Almost 275,000 working families benefit from the EITC tax relief and 250,000 Wisconsin residents are affected by the change to the homestead program. [Wisconsin State Journal]

About one-third of Homestead claimants (over 75,000) are over 65 years old. [Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue] [2011 Assembly Bill 40]

Instead of using the budget bill for all tax changes as is typically done during a budget session, the Republicans passed a number of bills prior to the budget bill that all that take effect with the 2011-13 fiscal year. The net effect of those bills and the budget is to decrease expected state tax revenue by in the 2011-13 biennium by about $198 million. These bills affected the budgetary choices for the 2011-2013 biennium by reducing the amount of revenue available to invest in programs like education and health care.

The specific provisions which take affect in the 2011-13 budget include:

Special Session AB 7: $67 Million Tax Cut to Corporations

Walker created an income and franchise tax credit to corporations that create jobs. [2011 SS AB 7; Legislative Council Act Memo 2011 WI Act 5, Fiscal Bureau Memo AB/SB7 (Sub), 1/20/2011]

Special Session SB 2: $48 Million Tax Cut for Private Health Savings Accounts 

Walker provided a nonrefundable state income tax credit to an individual who makes contributions to a health savings account (HSA). [2011 SS SB 2, DOR Fiscal Estimate, Fiscal Bureau Memo, 1/18/2011]

Executive Budget Bill AB 40: $83 Million

Walker’s budget contained the following tax breaks for big corporations and the rich:

  • Changes to the state’s combined reporting law, which will allow corporations to write off losses before 2009. 2011-13 cost to taxpayers: $46.4 million [2011-13 Budget Paper #317]
  • Changes to capital gains taxes for certain investments.  2011-13 Cost to Wisconsin taxpayers: $36.3 million. [2011-13 Budget Paper #311]
  • A second provision of the capital gains proposal has no cost in the current biennium but will rise to $158 million a biennium ($79 million/yearly) once fully phased in. [2011-13 Budget Paper #311

In addition to the tax breaks proposed by Walker, the GOP-controlled legislature added to the budget a tax break for manufacturers and other corporations that would cost $10.1 million in this biennium but then balloon in cost: 

“[The Joint Finance Committee]: “Approved an income tax credit for manufacturers that eventually would cost the state $128 million a year. The tax break would be phased in over a four-year period. Over that time it would cost the state $320 million to hand out the tax credits. [Appleton Post Crescent, 6/4/2011]

Walker approved of this additional tax break when he signed the budget bill into law, raising the total ten-year cost of tax breaks passed in 2011 to an astounding $2.33 billion. [Legislative Fiscal Bureau, “General Fund Taxes,” June 9, 2011; 2011 Assembly Bill 40]

Apart from the provisions that only benefit corporations, the benefits of the HSA and capital gains measures skew heavily toward the richest taxpayers. A study by the federal Governmental Accountability Office showed the average adjusted gross income of HSA participants was $139,000 and nearly half of HSA participants reported withdrawing nothing from their HSA, evidence that it is serving as a tax shelter for wealthy participants. [Government Accountability Office, 4/1/08; Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 1/11/11]

For capital gains, the Wisconsin data show a similar tilt towards benefitting the wealthy: “Although taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $150,000 represented only 10% of 2009 tax filers, they claimed 52% of the capital gains exclusions.” [Legislative Fiscal Bureau]

In addition, the capital gains tax breaks in this budget require more specialized investing, and thus would likely skew even more towards higher income investors with larger investment portfolios. [Capital Times

Lastly, Walker’s budget allows big corporations to write off business losses before 2009 from their tax liabilities. Only around 400 companies out of more than 40,000 would be able to use this loophole, with a big 2011-13 cost of $46.4 million for taxpayers, and $320million through 2021. One specific bank that could benefit from the loophole, is Marshall & Ilsley Corp, which lost about $2 billion in 2008 alone. [Wisconsin State Journal; 2011-13 Budget Paper #317; Legislative Fiscal Bureau Memo, June 9, 2011; 2011 Assembly Bill 40]

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6. Joined lawsuit to repeal federal health care act

Gov Walker pushed to join the lawsuit to repeal federal health care act, allowing insurance companies drop people when they become sick, eliminate free mammogram coverage and even deny coverage for children with pre-existing conditions.

One of Walker’s first acts after being sworn into office, was to authorize the Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, to join the lawsuit to overturn the federal health law. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-1; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-2] 

The federal health care reform act helps uninsured people with pre-existing conditions find coverage, allows young adults under 26 to stay on their parent’s health insurance, ends lifetime and most annual limits on care, and helps more children get coverage. In 2014, more rights, protections and benefits will be kicking in, including additional federal funds for Wisconsin, potentially saving the state $364.6 million. [HealthCare.gov; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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7. Refused to defend state’s domestic partnership registry

In March 2011, Walker fired the attorney hired to defend the state against an attack on the domestic partnership registry that was created after the 2006 referendum banning gay marriage and creating a “legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage.”

"The governor of this state has an obligation to defend laws he doesn’t like. And for that matter, so does the attorney general," Pines said. "This shows an utter disrespect for the rule of law."

The registries allow same-sex couples to take family and medical leave to care for a seriously ill partner, make end-of-life decisions and have hospital visitation rights. But according to Fair Wisconsin, they still confer only about a quarter of the rights associated with marriage, lacking provisions to allow couples to file joint tax returns or adopt children together.

As of August 2010, about 1,500 same-sex couples had registered with counties. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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8. Racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars to his friends at a pricey law firm

Walker okayed up to $500,000 in legal fees to a private law firm that was hired just four days before Walker unveiled the bill that took away the collective bargaining rights of 175,000 workers. The contract with the law firm was signed by Ray Taffora, who just a month earlier worked in the attorney general’s office, directly under J.B. Van Hollen. According to news reports, the contract “authorized payment at the unusually high rate of up to $300 an hour.” In the attorney general’s office, Taffora was making an hourly rate of $65. 

Walker’s office says the firm was hired “at the request of the attorney general’s office” to review the budget repair bill and provide other legal services the office could not. Yet, the attorney general’s office ended up defending the collective bargaining bill in the court, so it’s unclear as to why the services of this firm were necessary. [Wisconsin State Journal]

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9. Killed high-speed rail and the thousands of jobs it would have created

Walker killed the planned 110-mph Madison-to-Milwaukee passenger train route, causing the state to lose $810 million in federal funds. That $810 million went to fund train lines in other states, including Illinois.

"Eight hundred and ten million dollars that would have gone to create thousands of jobs in Wisconsin will now create jobs in other states," Doyle said. "Bogus arguments that this money can be used for roads have been proven false. . . .  Together with many others I have worked hard to move Wisconsin into the future. I obviously am deeply saddened to see us take a major step backward."

The state Department of Transportation had projected that rail-related jobs would peak at 4,732 in 2012, counting those in direct construction, at supply companies and in government. Also, 55 permanent jobs would be created to operate and maintain the trains, tracks and stations. Supporters say many more jobs would be created by the project’s spinoff impact on the economy. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

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10: Tried to repeal clean water laws – advocated for corporate polluters, like his Koch friends

After his attempt to repeal tougher limits on water pollution run-off proved unpopular, Walker instead proposed the rule not be enforced for two years, potentially putting the state in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Phosphorous can fuel the growth of toxic blue-green algae in lakes and streams, jeopardizing public health. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Wisconsin State Journal

Georgia-Pacific, a paper plant owned by the Koch brothers who have invested millions in supporting Walker’s gubernatorial campaign and his attack on workers, is one of the leading sources of phosphorous run-off into the Lower Fox River Basin. Georgia-Pacific is responsible for as much as 9% of the total phosphorous pollution in the region, according to a state study (Wisconsin DNR). The Koch’s would benefit tremendously from the delay or outright repeal of the phosphorous rule, allowing them to continue dumping phosphorous rather than invest in technology to clean up their water emissions. 

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11. Consolidated power in the executive office

Department of Administration – General Agency Provisions

Elementary School Reading Task Force (Item 9 – Bill Sec. 726 and 9101(2)) – Usurps the constitutional power of the DPI superintendent to create assessments by authorizing a task force to make recommendations and to implement those recommendations.

Office of Business Development (Item 11 – Bill Sec. 96, 213, 807, 814, and 2761) – Funds two new executive salary class political appointees for the alleged purpose of coordinating business development. The statutes only provide that the positions serve at the direction of the DOA Secretary.  ($363,400 GPR over two years)

Transfers American Indian Economic Development (Item 5 – bill sections 421,744, and 3422) – Transfer $159,000 over the biennium from Commerce and put it at DOA for unspecified purposes. The funding is currently used to provide assistance grants to tribal enterprises or Indian business that are attempting to start, develop marketing plans and provide technical assistance to accessing other sources of capital.

Transfer College Savings Programs to DOA – (Item 1 – bill sections multiple) – Transfer from the State Treasurer the management of the College Tuition and Expenses program, EdVest and Tomorrow’s Scholar. Each of these programs has contracts with financial managers. Currently, they are administered by WellsFargo.

Transfer of Local Government Investment Pool (Item 2 – bill sections multiple) – Under current law, local governments may make deposits through the State Treasurer of funds which are transferred to the State of WI Investment Board for management. Rather than transfer the responsibility of receiving the funds to DOA, the responsibility could be given to the Investment Board, which manages the money anyways. 

Transfer of Secretary of State Administrative functions (Item 4 – section 9142(2)) – This would transfer to the DOA nearly all responsibilities of the secretary of state, except for that of affixing the seal of WI on official documents. Other duties of the Secretary of State are transferred to the Department of Financial Institutions under another item (LFB Summary – Financial Institutions – Item 6 – notary and trademark functions are transferred to the DFI)

Transfer Rural Hospital Loan Guarantee Rule Making (Item 6 – sections 2785-2787 and 9110(8)) – Currently the Department of Commerce makes rules for this loan program. Under the bill, these responsibilities would be transferred to the DOA, rather than the WI Economic Development Corporation or WI Housing and Econ Development Authority.


Transfer Divisions of Safety and Buildings and Environmental Regulatory Services to Department of Safety and Professional Services – (Item 11 – p. 135) – Reallocation of Funds within the DSPS. Authorize the DOA secretary to transfer monies in the new department, without approval of the legislature, as provided under current law.

Employment Relations Commission

Convert classified position to unclassified division administrator position (Item 5 – section 2754 and 2763) – Take the WERC chief legal counsel position and makes it a political appointee. It has been a civil servant for decades, providing non-partisan advice and counsel to the commissioners.

Financial Institutions 

Transfer from Secretary of State (Item 6 – sections multiple) – Transfer from the Secretary of State responsibilities related to notary and trademark functions, registering trademarks and trade-names and brands.

Health Services – MA – Services

Budget Adjustment Bill (2011 Act 10) and Item 3 – Grant DHS Secretary authority to cut $466 million without any legislative oversight. This could include changes to eligibility and program benefits.

Health Services – MA Administration and Food Share

Centralize Administration of Income Maintenance programs (Item 2 – Health Services MA Administration and Foodshare – bill section 1490) – Under this item the state would not have to enter into contracts following provisions of Ch. 16 sub-chapter IV. This provision of the statute provides:

o 16.7015 – Bidders on an agency’s bidder list must be notified of opportunities for procurements of bids or proposals.

o 16.705(2) – Provide a process of monitoring the contract that is in place; that uniform cost-benefit analyses of proposals are conducted; provide for regular review of the contract and appropriateness for continuing it on regular basis and before a renewal is pursued; requires written justification for continuing contracting; and written justification for using a bidding process different from a competitive bidding process.

o 16.705(5) –  Provide a process to assure that the process used for selection of persons to perform contractual services includes a review of the independence and relationship,  of the contractor to employees of the agency, disclosure of any former employment of the contractor or employees of the contractor with the agency and a procedure to minimize the likelihood of selection of a contractor who provides or is likely to provide services to industries, client groups or individuals who are the object of state regulation or the recipients of state funding to a degree that the contractor’s independence would be compromised.

o 16.705 annotation - Procuring statutes and regulations, such as Adm Ch. 10, Wis. Adm. Code, are designed to prevent fraud, collusion, favoritism, and improvidence in the administration of public business, as well as to ensure that the public receives the best work at the most reasonable price practicable. As such, these regulations are intended for the benefit and protection of the public and not of the individual bidder. PRN Associates LLC v. DOA, 2009 WI 53, 317 Wis. 2d 656, 766 N.W.2d 559, 07-0476

Transfer of Foodshare to Department of Children and Families (Item 6) – This item would grant to the DOA Secretary the authority to determine which positions to transfer between DHS and DCF. It would also allow the Secretary to transfer monies between appropriations to accomplish this, without legislative oversight.


Allocation of Discretionary Legal Settlement Funding (Item 10) – Transfers funds received from legal settlements by DOJ to an appropriation operated by DOA. Under current law, the Department of Justice retains settlement funds and they may be used at the AG’s discretion.

Under the proposal, the Walker administration claims the funding will go to pay for local law enforcement’s fees they pay to buy surplus federal military property and to the state law library.

Office of State Employment Relations

Authority to eliminate vacant positions (Item 7 – bill section 9101(4)) – Permit the DOA Secretary to eliminate any vacant position in any executive branch agency in state government. Ch. 15 specifies that this includes other constitutionally elected agencies – such as DPI and DOJ- and other agencies headed by their own boards, such as Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Employee Trust Funds. This authority probably also extends to the positions in the UW System Administration and WI Technical College System Administration, although not the faculty and staff of UW campuses or the faculty and staff (position authority is in ch. 16) or of individual technical colleges (authorities to district boards are in ch. 38).

This eliminates the role of the legislature in eliminating positions.

Safety and Professional Services

Transfer State Approving Agency Functions from Veterans Affairs (Item 6 – bill sections 1237-1239, 1244-1248 and 9153(1)) – Transfer the authority to evaluate and approve academic institutions as meeting requirements to receive funding under the Montgomery GI Bill from the WI Department of Veterans Affairs to the Department of Safety and Professional Services - granting the Governor control over what has been an issue for the WI Department of Veterans Affairs.

Transportation – State Highway Program

Major Highway Development Project Definition (Item 6 – bill sections multiple) – According to LFB Informational Paper #41 – Major Highway Development, the process for selecting major highway development projects involves the legislature to a greater extent than other highway projects, since all major highway projects must be enumerated in statutes prior to construction.  Under current law, any project that costs more than $5 million, and meets other criteria related to “capacity expansion” e.g., adding one or more lanes five miles or more in length, is a major highway development project and must go through a two-step approval process involving – 1) Transportation Project Committee (TPC), which is chaired by the Governor and comprised of 10 legislators and 3 citizens, and 2) the legislature.

Under the proposal, the definition of a major highway program that needs the approval of the legislature is substantially changed. Its intention is to take expensive rehabilitation projects and have them funded through the major highway development project program, under the premise that the project is not increasing capacity.

The proposal begins by making any project over $75 million eligible for the major highway development fund financing.  It then indexes the $75 million threshold so that it will annually increase and is not to be considered an administrative rule. The department is permitted to create its own index.

Under current law, projects that exceed the $75 million threshold must be approved by the TPC. Under the proposal, the DOT must submit the project to the TPC. If the Governor, as chair of the TPC, does not convene a meeting the project is considered approved – in effect, the Governor is the sole arbitrator of whether to spend funds on these significant projects.  

As an approved project, it does not need to go before the legislature for enumeration before construction may begin. If the Governor wants, he can decide to have a TPC hearing on the project and whatever the TPC recommends (approval, modification or denial) is what will happen to the project.

Again, the administration is arguing that these are not capacity expanding projects, just significant rehabilitation. However, they spend significant sums of money.  Finally, under the proposal, the project would not need the TPC to approve the preparation of an environmental impact statement or environment assessment, the requirement that the project be started within six years of enumeration or that it be scored according to criteria developed by the department for the TPC removing additional oversight by legislators and the public.

University of Wisconsin System

Plan for UW-Milwaukee Authority – (Item 11 – Section 9152 (2)) – The budget provides for $250,000 to be spent by the UW System Board of Regents to develop a plan for UWM to become an authority by October 2012. The only approval for the authority plan would come from the DOA Secretary, which may make modifications to the plan submitted by the UW System Board of Regents. No legislative involvement is required. 

A read of the budget bill does not seem to indicate that the legislature needs to take any action on creating the authority for UW-Milwaukee; rather the DOA Secretary simply needs to approve the plan, or modify it, and implement it.

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12. Passed the most restrictive voter ID law in the nation

Governor Walker signed into a law the most restrictive voter ID law in the nation. The law is overly burdensome on voters and the state is simply unequipped to administer it and ensure legal voters will not be disenfranchised or subject to a poll tax. 

Facts on Voter ID Bill:

The bill originally was based on Indiana’s Voter ID Bill. According to the Supreme Court case upholding Indiana’s Voter ID bill, the lower court found, “99 percent of Indiana’s voting age population already possesses the necessary photo identification to vote under the requirements.” The Supreme Court concluded that Indiana’s law was Constitutional, specifically because so few Indianans were without the state-issued photo identification.

Wisconsin’s population is substantially less likely to have a state-issued identification. A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study showed that the following numbers about those without state-issued photo identification and who would need to obtain one under the Wisconsin Voter ID bill:

  • Over 178,000 elderly Wisconsinites
  • 17 percent of white men and women
  • 55 percent of African American men and 49 percent of African American women
  • 46 percent of Hispanic men and 59 percent of Hispanic women
  • 78 percent of African American men age 18-24 and 66 percent of African American women age 18-24

  [Driver License Status of the Voting Age Population in Wisconsin, 6/05]

Additional statistics about Wisconsin lack of accessible DMVs compared to Indiana:

  • Twenty-six percent of Wisconsin’s 91 DMVs are open one day a month or less, while none of Indiana’s are open less than 100 days a year and nearly all are open over 250 days a year.
  • Wisconsin has only one DMV with weekend hours, while Indiana has 124 offices with weekend hours.
  • Three Wisconsin counties have no DMVs, no Indiana county is without a DMV.
  • Over half of Wisconsin’s 91 DMVs are open on a part-time basis, while Indiana provides full-time DMVs in every county.

Republican claims of widespread voter irregularity have long been debunked. After a two-year investigation, Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen has found only 11 potentially-improper votes cast out of nearly 3 million votes in 2008. Former Wisconsin U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush, Steve Biskupic concluded after a similar investigation there was no widespread voter fraud. The majority of charges in all of these cases involved felons who were technically ineligible to vote.