A massive election reform package from Republicans at the Capitol is sure to be controversial. It’s a 77 page piece of legislation that addresses a number of issues related to elections and political campaigns in Wisconsin – including voter photo I.D. While one judge’s order blocking implementation of the law was recently overturned by the state appeals court, another appeal is still pending, and law faces two challenges in federal court.
The author of the bill, state Representative Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), said legal concerns are addressed. “We’ve created a way for a person to swear an affirmation that they’re eligible to vote, and then to allow them to cast a ballot.”
“This addresses what the courts have pointed out is their concern,” Stone said. “That some people who are eligible to vote under the bill that was passed before wouldn’t be able to. I believe this addresses that core issue, and so it’s my expectation that we’d be moving back towards having photo I.D. in place.”
But Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin is skeptical that people who can’t afford photo I.D. or the documentation needed to obtain it will want to admit to that. “Who is actually going to be humiliated, by showing up at the polls and saying ‘I’m so poor I can’t buy an I.D.’ This is a demeaning, dehumanizing decision,” said Heck.
“I think that there are real constitutional issues with this,” said Heck. “They can get it through. They can ram it through, I’m sure they will. But my guess is that this is going to be back in front of the courts very shortly, and we’re going to go on without a voter photo I.D. bill, which is just fine with me.”
Stone’s bill – which as of Friday had not been introduced – also incorporates language to allow special interest campaign “issue ads” to air without showing who’s paying for them. He said that’s in line with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. “Corporations have the ability to participate in public speech,” he said. “Those ‘persons’ that are defined by the constitution will have the ability to participate.”
Heck said that provision is a favor to special interest groups that don’t want the public to know how they’re influencing. “It’s just a purely a favor to special interest groups, who don’t anyone knowing where their money comes from, or how they’re trying to influence elections.
UPDATE: The bill has now been introduced. AB 225 will have a public hearing on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. in Room 417 North of the state Capitol.