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Wisconsin Voter ID Law: Targeting The Young, Old, and Minority?

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With the Wisconsin presidential primary election ended, critics look back to examine the controversial Voter ID law enacted in 2014.

Last week, Wisconsin’s Voter ID law was sent back to United States District Judge Lynn Adelman to determine if a provision for those people who face “daunting obstacles” in obtaining an ID card to be able to vote can be added to the law. The provision would make it possible for those facing obstacles in getting an ID to be able to sign an affidavit at the polls instead of showing an ID card, according to American Civil Liberties Union attorney Sean Young.

In 2014, Wisconsin became one of 33 states in the United States to enact a voter ID law. An appeals court reinstated the Voter ID law in 2014, which was originally signed into law by Governor Scott Walker in 2011. The primary presidential election on April 5 was the major election to be effected by the newly reinstated law.

According to Gov. Walker, the main goal of the voter ID law was to help prevent cases of voter fraud in Wisconsin elections. In 2011, when the law was first signed, Gov. Walker stated in an interview with Reuters News that the law would “go a long way to protect the integrity of elections in Wisconsin”.

On April 5, 2016, former Republican State Representative for Wisconsin Glenn Grothman said in an interview with TMJ4 in Milwaukee that the democratic candidates were some of the weakest that have opposed the GOP. He also said “Now we have the Voter ID Law, and I think it is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”

While Grothman did not explicitly say that the Voter ID law is supposed to suppress voters, it confirms what Democrats have been worried about since 2011. Mike Tate, the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin said in an interview in 2011 that “with no real need for this legislation, Republicans knew that it would most impact the elderly, college students, African-Americans, Latinos and other groups that tend to vote Democratic”.

Edgewood College Social Science professor, Steven Davis shares the worries of the Democrats in regards to the voter ID law. “There are people on record saying that the real reason of this is to suppress the vote for certain groups of people, and those groups of people in my opinion are African-Americans, Hispanics and young people.”

Davis explained why he felt those particular groups were the target for the Voter ID law by saying “If you could cut out 300,000 voters in Wisconsin who tend to vote one particular way, you would save a few points in the election”.

Davis called the Voter ID law a “solution in search of a problem”. He said that there have been very few cases of voter fraud over the course of the last decade, citing a report that was done by United States District Judge Lynn Adelman.

In the report that Adelman filed after hearing the case, he stated “The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants (Wisconsin State Officials) could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past”.

Davis went on to say that he believes “this is part of a national strategy, of what seems to be voter suppression. Let me give you an example. The state of Texas makes it extremely hard for young people to vote; it doesn’t allow student ID cards. However, it does allow concealed carry ID’s to be used. What this tells me is they are picking and choosing what sorts of constituencies they want at the polls”.

In Wisconsin, Student ID cards can be used as an acceptable form of photo ID. Davis said that when the law was originally signed back in 2011, none of the ID cards that were issued by public and private colleges in the state were compliant with the law. “Now”, says Davis, “Edgewood ID’s are compliant, but they can’t be used with out proof of enrollment and proof of residency at the college. With this stipulation, every Edgewood student receives an email a few days before the elections with this information”.

Davis also said that the city of Madison has been a lot of help to its residents. The city sent out flyers that listed what forms of Id are acceptable, and what each of those acceptable forms needs to have on it to be fully compliant with the law. For example, the flyer states that in order for a student to use a school ID card, the card has to have a picture, the person’s signature, the date it was issued, the date it expires and the school must be a Wisconsin accredited college. In addition, the ID needs to be presented with a proof of enrollment and residency at the given school.

When asked about what the Voter ID law means for future voters in Wisconsin, Davis said, “In the bigger picture, this is about demographics. The Republican Party is not performing well among people of color and their base is increasingly aging. They need to do better, they can either appeal to people of color, or double down on that crowd, and try to limit the votes of people of color”.

More information about the Voter ID law can be found at http://www.gab.wi.gov/elections-voting/photo-id

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