Tougher to vote?

Jacob Ennis, Clarion Copy Editor


Roughly half of Milwaukee residents of African or Hispanic descent will now be required to obtain an ID that they don’t currently possess, if they want to vote.

According to Wisconsin Senate Bill 6, come February 2012, you will need a photo ID to vote unless you fall under a few different categories. If your address is legally confidential for your protection, a law enforcement officer revoked your license or if you apply for an absentee ballot and have a signed statement by a witness verifying your identity, you are exempt from the law.

If you just moved here, and haven’t had time to get an ID, don’t worry. You can use your license from whatever state you moved from to prove your identity. That’s right. You can use an out of state ID, but you can’t use your student ID from a technical college.

Fortunately, you don’t actually need to pay for this ID. You can get one free of charge from the DMV by simply saying that it is a voter ID. Make sure you mention that, or else you will be charged. DMV employees were told not to inform people that you can get one for free by a supervisor. That person did get fired, but DMV employees still very well might be holding back.

The IDs themselves may be free, but obtaining a state issued ID for the first time is not something of ease. First, and most importantly, you need either a U.S. certified birth certificate or a valid passport. The cost for the birth certificate will set you back $20, and passport runs about $135. Of course, if you have a passport, you don’t need the state-issued ID.

This is a blow to the technical college students. The GOP legislature knows that a lot of these students aren’t going to go through the hassle to get a state-issued ID, especially if they have to shell out $20 for a birth certificate. They did what they could to keep as many students and minorities from voting as possible.

Students from the colleges and universities that are allowed to use their student ID will have to have an ID that expires no later than two years after issuance. A sticker is to be put on the student IDs in the UW system that expires every two years. This will make it so new IDs won’t have to be printed every two years, saving money for the UW system.

The $1.9 million appropriated for implementing this law could have been better spent elsewhere. Wasn’t there a budget crisis earlier this year?

This is all in theory, of course. SB 6 looks like a kindergartener’s English paper that was graded for college. The bill is 73 pages long, but much of it has either been stricken off or added in through amendments.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been asked to examine the bill and its possible violation of the Voting Rights Act. Sally Stix, a chairperson for the Civil Rights & Liberties Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin, wrote a formal letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking just this.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund has also filed a lawsuit challenging the law. They claim it violates the voting portion (Article III) of the Wisconsin Constitution.

This is a valid argument, since Article III states that the legislature can amend the current election statutes, without referendum, so as to make the statutes conform with the 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It also states that a general election is required to extend “the right of suffrage to additional classes.”