November 23, 2014

Democrats attack latest voter ID bill

A public hearing on a bill that would make changes to Wisconsin’s Voter ID law brought out harsh criticism from Democrats, who argue the measure only serves to intimidate voters.

The proposal in the Assembly would allow Wisconsin residents to still cast a ballot if they don’t have a photo ID. State Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) says they would just have to declare that they can’t afford to obtain one, say they don’t have access to documents needed to get an ID, or state they have a religious objection to being photographed. The proposal is modeled after an Indiana law, which survived a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008.

The bill would address some of the arguments being made in court against the state’s Voter ID law, which the Legislature passed in 2011. The law was only in place for one election, and has been blocked for almost two years because of legal challenges. It’s also the subject of a federal trial that started this week.

During a hearing on the bill Wednesday at the Capitol, state Representative JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee) argued the measure could actually discourage many low-income voters from coming out to the polls. She said many of those individuals would not want to publicly declare that they are poor just to get a ballot, and the bill would more likely scare voters away than help them. The Milwaukee Democrat said those voters “won’t be thrilled, it will intimidate them and make them less likely to head to the polls on election day.”

Democrats on the panel also questioned the need to pass the bill, since Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement is currently unenforceable and there have been few reported cases of voter fraud that could have been prevented by the law. Schraa argued that passing the measure would help to expedite those court cases, while also noting that even a single case of voter fraud is one too many.

While the Assembly could act on the measure this session, Republican leaders in the Senate have indicated they have no plans to take up the bill at this time.