Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Most Restrictive Voter ID Legislation in the Nation "Advances" on Tuesday

Press Release
May 4, 2011

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


In a very divided and contentious three hour plus executive session yesterday, the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform forwarded to the Joint Finance Committee the most restrictive, blatantly partisan and ill-conceived voter identification legislation in the nation. The vote was 5 Republicans in favor and 3 Democrats against a substitute amendment to Assembly Bill 7 that made some modifications to the original legislation but not enough to make it worthy of support.

It appears that the committee Republicans agreed to allow student IDs which were not permitted in the original bill. The substitute requires that the student ID cards have the student's current address on them -- which is a huge problem in that current student IDs do not have addresses on them for security reasons because they are often used as card keys to get into dormitories and other secured campus buildings. No amendments were able to be offered in the executive session and so this key amendment will have to be offered (and presumably adopted) when the Joint Finance Committee meets to attach a cost to this very expensive legislation. At least $5 million will be needed to pay for photo IDs for people who cannot afford them, and implementation of the voter photo ID program -- a total waste of scarce taxpayer money in a time of record budget deficits and cutbacks to vital state programs.

But even with the student ID amendment, Assembly Bill 7 (and Senate Bill 6 - its counterpart that has nearly cleared the State Senate), is still the most restrictive voter identification legislation in the nation.

Currently 26 of the 50 states in the nation require voters to show some form of identification at the polls to vote. Of those 26 only 8 require some form of photo ID. AB7/SB6 is more restrictive than any of those other 8 states in terms of the forms of photo ID that could be accepted.

Under AB 7 the only forms of ID that would be acceptable would be a valid Wisconsin driver's license, a Department of Transportation-issued ID that can only be obtained from a DMV office and is free -- but only if you know that it is free and you request it to be free (otherwise you are charged for it). You can also use a valid passport, valid naturalization papers, a U.S. military ID card, a Tribal ID and -- possibly -- a student ID.

But even the two most currently restrictive states in the nation in terms of permissible photo IDs that must be shown at the polls -- Georgia and Indiana -- permit more forms of photo ID at the polling places. Georgia allows all the photo ID forms that AB7/SB6 would and several more -- such as expired driver's licenses, any form of federal ID (Wisconsin would allow only military), and any form of state or local ID (Wisconsin would allow only DOT-issued). Indiana, which Republicans in Wisconsin say was their "model," allows any form of photo ID issued by the federal or state government.

And Georgia and Indiana are extreme in terms of the types of ID that can be used to vote. AB7/SB6 would make Wisconsin even more extreme.

What have the voters of Wisconsin done to deserve the most restrictive extreme voter ID law in the nation?

Our "crime" is that as a state we turn out to vote in presidential elections in greater numbers than any other state other than Minnesota.

Our "crime" is that twice the number of voters that usually vote in state Supreme Court elections turned out on April 5th in the Prosser-Kloppenburg contest. Vote "fraud" in that election? None. But there was that little problem in Waukesha County by the partisan clerk in tabulating the votes...

Our "crime" is that we currently encourage our citizens to participate in the democratic process by making it relatively simple to vote. This helps enable students and young people to develop civic responsibility early in their lives and make voting a lifelong "habit." We also care about making voting accessible and possible for the elderly, and physically impaired, and for people without motor vehicles and drivers licenses, and for people in cities and for minority voters.

Our "crime" is that in Wisconsin we think all votes and all voters should count and should have equal access to the polling place.

Soon, Wisconsin will be punished for these "crimes" by enacting into law AB7/SB6 -- making it more difficult, burdensome and restrictive for all of our citizens to participate.

And it will be easier to vote in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and every other state in the nation than it will be to vote in Wisconsin.

Thanks a lot.

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

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