An Assembly committee held a day long public hearing at the state Capitol Wednesday, on Republican legislation which would require Wisconsin residents to show photo identification in order to vote. It’s legislation which opponents claim will disenfranchise voters, and make Wisconsin the most restrictive state in terms of what ID would be allowed. The hearing quickly became contentious.
Sun Prairie City Clerk Diane Herman-Brown testified that a woman in her city was “disenfranchised” – because her married name on her driver’s license didn’t match her name on the utility bill she brought in to establish residency. The bill’s author, Representative Jeff Stone, asked why the woman hadn’t changed her license, since she’d been married nine months. “Because that would be her responsibility to do that,” said Stone. “Her comment was that she works an odd shift and it was very difficult, even in Dane County, for her to get to a DMV” said Herman Brown. Stone said his experience is that it’s not that difficult to get a license – and he took issue with Herman-Brown’s word choice. “The bill does not disenfranchise people,” he said. “If they can’t comply with the requirements in the timeframe they would be disenfranchised,” said Herman-Brown. “I’m very concerned about the use of ‘disenfranchisement’, when the bill cannot disenfranchise people, because that would be unconstitutional, and it does not do that,” said Stone, prompting some in the Capitol’s North Hearing Room to applaud. They were quickly gaveled to silence by the committee chairman, Representative Gary Tauchen.
Student identification cards would not be included in the list of acceptable ID under the legislation (AB 7). Stone argued that won’t put up a roadblock to students who want to vote. “If you have a driver’s license, it doesn’t have to reflect the current address, if you’re registered properly, and you have a current valid driver’s license or ID. you would be able to vote under this law,” Stone told Analiese Eicher, a Dane County Board member who’s also a UW Madison student. Eicher said that while the bill would not effect her because she has a valid license, that’s not the case for every student. “Obtaining a driver’s license or an ID card in the state of Wisconsin, especially for someone who lives on a college campus, and given the location and lack of DMVs across the state of Wisconsin, is very difficult,” said Eicher.
The legislation requiring Wisconsin voters to show photo identification at the polls is expected to be in place for the next presidential election. That from state Senator Joe Leibham, the bill’s Senate author. “I’ll take the opportunity to share with the public that I’m confident that this legislature and Governor Walker will be adopting some form of a photo ID requirement sometime within the next couple of months, and it’s our hope for sure that it will be in place in time for the 2012 elections,” said Leibham.