Cap times: Why voter ID bill may be unconstitutional

-By Scott Ross

May 28, 2011- We believe Wisconsin’s new voter ID law is overly burdensome on voters and that the state is simply unequipped to administer this law and ensure legal voters will not be disenfranchised or subject to a poll tax. We continue to confer with legal counsel about what potential legal challenges can be made against Gov. Scott Walker’s voter suppression bill.

The bill originally was based on Indiana’s voter ID bill. According to the U.S. Supreme Court case upholding Indiana’s bill, the lower court found that “99 percent of Indiana’s voting age population already possesses the necessary photo identification to vote under the requirements.” The Supreme Court concluded that Indiana’s law was constitutional, specifically because so few Indianans were without the state-issued photo identification.

Wisconsin’s population is substantially less likely to have a state-issued identification. A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study showed the following about those without state-issued driver’s license and who would need to obtain photo identification under the Wisconsin voter ID bill:

• Over 178,000 elderly Wisconsinites.

• 17 percent of white men and women.

• 55 percent of African-American men and 49 percent of African-American women.

• 46 percent of Hispanic men and 59 percent of Hispanic women.

• 78 percent of African-American men age 18-24 and 66 percent of African-American women age 18-24.

Additional statistics about Wisconsin lack of accessible Division of Motor Vehicles offices compared to Indiana:

• 26 percent of Wisconsin’s 91 DMVs are open one day a month or less, while none of Indiana’s are open less than 100 days a year and nearly all are open over 250 days a year.

• Wisconsin has only one DMV with weekend hours, while Indiana has 124 offices with weekend hours.

• Three Wisconsin counties have no DMVs, no Indiana county is without a DMV.

• Over half of Wisconsin’s 91 DMVs are open on a part-time basis, while Indiana provides full-time DMVs in every county.

Republican claims of widespread voter irregularity have long been debunked. After a two-year investigation, Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has found only 11 potentially improper votes cast out of nearly 3 million votes in 2008. The former Wisconsin U.S. attorney under George W. Bush, Steve Biskupic, concluded after a similar investigation that there was no widespread voter fraud. The majority of charges in all of these cases involved felons who were technically ineligible to vote.

Scot Ross is executive director of One Wisconsin Now.

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