Thursday, January 27, 2011

Voter ID Legislation: Fraud Prevention or Voter Suppression?

Press Release
January 27, 2011

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


Less Costly and Less Burdensome ID Requirement Options are Available
and in Effect in Other States. If enacted into law, Senate Bill 6 will be the
Most Restrictive and Burdensome Voter ID Measure in Nation.

Senate Bill 6 -- legislation that would completely transform Wisconsin from one of the easiest states in the country in which to cast a ballot to one of the most difficult -- is apparently on a “fast track” toward consideration and passage in the Wisconsin Legislature and enactment into law.

Lawmakers ought to take a “deep breath” and very carefully consider the implications and ramifications of requiring all voters to show a state-issued photo identification card at the polls before they can cast their ballot. Senate Bill 6 ought to be sidetracked and examined carefully before Wisconsin adopts a law that many of its citizens will grow to greatly resent and regret.

Proponents of Senate Bill 6 have stated repeatedly that the objective of this measure is to prevent voter fraud -- and to stop citizens from voting who are not who they say they are or who have lost the right to vote. They continually deny that their goal is to depress voter turnout or to make it more burdensome or difficult for Wisconsin citizens who are eligible to vote, to be able to do so.

But Senate Bill 6 is, undeniably, onerous and burdensome and would most certainly have the effect of decreasing voter turnout and participation in Wisconsin – which currently and historically has been among those states with the highest voter turnout and participation in the nation.

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 27 states currently require some form of voter identification at the polling place. Of these, 19 states require any of a variety of different forms of identification but not a photo.

In only eight states is a photo ID currently required.

In no state is a voter who cannot produce identification turned away from the polls—there is some sort of recourse for voters without ID to be able to vote. But in those eight states that require a photo ID in only two – Indiana and Georgia -- require voters to cast a provisional ballot and then forces them to return and produce for election officials an ID within a day or so in order for their vote to count. This is what Senate Bill 6 would require as well but goes beyond Indiana and Georgia because only a photo ID is accepted in Wisconsin.

So Wisconsin would surpass Georgia and Indiana as the most restrictive state in the nation in which to cast a vote with regard to identification.

Why is it necessary to adopt such a burdensome and draconian voter identification method? There is no reason unless it is to deliberately reduce the number of Wisconsin citizens who can and will vote.

Why not accept any number of other forms of identification to protect against voter fraud?

Alabama, for example requires any of these forms of ID to cast a ballot: government issued-photo ID, Employee ID with photo, Alabama college/university ID with photo, utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck, ID card issued by any state or the U.S. government, U.S. passport, Alabama hunting or fishing permit or gun permit, FAA-issued pilot’s license, U.S. military ID, certified Birth certificate, social security card, Naturalization document, Court record of adoption, Court record of name change, Medicaid or Medicare card, electronic benefit transfer card, Government documents showing name and address of voter.

Senate Bill 6 stipulates that the only forms of identification that can be utilized to vote are a drivers license (with a photo) or a photo ID issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles which is free – but only if you request that it be free!

So it will be far more difficult to vote in Wisconsin than it is in Alabama--or in any other state.

Is that really what Wisconsinites want?

Then there is the question of the cost of implementing Senate Bill 6. The Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau has estimated a cost of approximately $2.5 million for the state-issued photo ID’s and that cost apparently does not include additional hours and personnel that might be required by the Department of Transportation to implement the photo ID process.

Is this how Wisconsin taxpayers want their hard-earned money spent at a time when we face unprecedented state budget deficits and looming cuts in far more needed state services than state issued photo ID cards?

The additional cost to the taxpayers of Alabama for required forms of ID to vote there is nothing. Why do proponents of Senate Bill 6 insist on gouging Wisconsin taxpayers unnecessarily? To depress voter turnout?

If not, why not follow Alabama’s example, instead of making Wisconsin more restrictive than Georgia and Indiana?

Some states, such as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, prevent voter “fraud” by matching the signature of a voter at the polls to the signature on their voter registration card. At virtually no cost to taxpayers and no burden to the voter. Why couldn’t Wisconsin have gone that route if the "real" concern is fraud?

The objective of the proponents of Senate Bill 6 is clearly to go beyond preventing “fraud.” It is really to make it more difficult for elderly, urban, non-driver and student voters to cast their votes and to depress voter turnout. And, to unnecessarily spend millions of dollars of scarce taxpayer money in the process.

They could at least be honest about their intentions rather than continue to try to mislead the public.


Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize voter ID meant that you had to use a driver's license or government-issued voter ID card and nothing else (for example, a student ID).

It's crazy that corporations have MORE rights than citizens. They influence elections without having to identify themselves (hiding behind the interest groups in which they funnel their money).

While real PEOPLE trying to cast their one vote are forced to show ID -- and one of two forms.

Seems like a double standard to me.