It won’t create any jobs or stimulate the economy, but legislation requiring voter identification appears to be on the fast track at the Capitol. The bill, which proponents say will provide new assurances on the integrity of elections in Wisconsin and which opponents claim will make it more difficult for some people to exercise their right to vote, was the subject of a day long legislative hearing on Wednesday.
State Senator Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee), who’s voted against previous versions of voter photo identification, noted there have been few prosecutions for voting violations. “If we’re going to spend literally millions of dollars to give people these photo I-Ds, what’s the problem? If the vast majority of these are mistaken identity or clerical error, isn’t this a solution in search of a problem?” Coggs said that investigations into allegations of election fraud following recent election turned up “less than a dozen cases” of intentional violations in each election.
State Senator Joe Liebham (R-Sheboygan) the bill’s co-author, said it’s about restoring confidence in the election process. “So that whether it be one, or twelve, or hundreds, citizens are not having their right to vote denied,” said Liebham. “That’s what this bill does. It asks a simple requirement: that prior to voting under an identity, you prove your identity.”
The bill also received supportive testimony from a pair of recently elected lawmakers with firsthand experience of the election process. State Representative Chad Weininger (R-Green Bay) is a former city clerk for Green Bay. “When it gets to local municipal races, and you only have four- to-five hundred people voting, and it’s a close race, if you only have one, two cases of voter fraud that could change the outcome of the election.” Weininger also cited his experience as an elections monitor in Tanzania where, he said, voters are required to show photo identification. “Within the walls of that polling location, you know I hate to say this, I think it’s a far superior process” to that in Wisconsin, Weininger said.
Representative Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) has served as Chippewa County clerk for more than twelve years. Like Weininger, she supports the bill, but doubts it can be in place in time for April elections. “The difficulty . . . will be to assure that the folks who don’t have a photo I-D will be able to obtain one by then,” Bernier said. “That is really your logistic problem.”
The legislation enjoys the full support of Governor Scott Walker, who authored a similar bill when he served in the state Assembly, and Republican leadership in both chambers of the legislature.