Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, just 24 days before he leaves office, signed a sweeping package of Republican-written legislation Friday that restricts early voting and weakens the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. The AP reports that the Republican governor downplayed bipartisan criticism—calling it “hype and hysteria”—that the bills will stain his legacy. He detailed all of the governor's powers, including a strong veto authority, that will not change, and he defended the measures he signed as ones that will improve transparency, stability, and accountability. Walker was urged by Democrats and Republicans, including Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum, to reject the legislation. He had earlier said he was considering partial vetoes, but he ultimately did not strike anything.
Democrats and liberal advocacy groups are expected to sue within days over the bills, which were pushed through the Republican-controlled Legislature during a lame-duck session last week. Republican leaders and Walker moved forward with the proposals immediately after Evers defeated the GOP governor as part of a Democratic sweep of statewide offices in the midterm election. Critics say the push is aimed at safeguarding conservative policies put in place during Walker's eight years as governor and mirrors tactics used by Republicans in North Carolina in 2016. Republicans in Michigan are weighing similar moves. The Wisconsin bills focus on numerous Republican priorities, including restricting early in-person voting to two weeks before an election. (Check out the new legislation’s major provisions.)