After the controversial 2000 election, complete with recount after recount, the problem of voter fraud became a national concern. Locally, some lawmakers believe illegal and inappropriate voting practices may be unnecessarily high in Wisconsin because of the current system of same-day voter registration. On Thursday, the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections passed legislation intended to decrease Wisconsin voter fraud.
Under current law, before being permitted to vote at any polling place, an elector must provide his or her name and address. If the elector is not registered, he or she must provide proof of residence in order to be eligible to vote. A piece of mail with the voter’s name and address on it is sufficient to prove eligibility and residency.
The law, however, currently offers an alternative for those electors who cannot furnish this required proof of residence. Wisconsin polling places allow other qualified electors who reside in the same municipality to corroborate the unregistered voters’ information.
In response to this, State Rep. Scott Walker, R-Wauwatosa, introduced Assembly Bill 259, which would repeal the authority of other citizens to vouch for an unregistered voter on Election Day. Walker said he fears under current regulation, Wisconsin is at great risk for voter fraud.
One of Walker’s main concerns is voters giving the names of former residents in order to vote multiple times. He said by taking away the corroboration aspect and mandating that all voters present valid photo identification, such as a Wisconsin driver’s license or valid Wisconsin identification card issued by the Department of Transportation, the chances of falsifying information would decrease.
Under the bill, this identification requirement would also extend to any elector who applies for an absentee ballot in person at the office of the municipal clerk.
However, some lawmakers are concerned the proposed bill could deter legitimate voters. State Sen. Gwendolynne Moore, D-Milwaukee, is an opponent of the bill because, according to her information, 122,798 of Wisconsin’s current residents do not have a valid driver’s license or identification card. Moore said she believes that if the bill is passed, only about 20 percent of those without proper ID would actually have the necessary credentials.
“[This bill] places undue and unnecessary burdens on some of our most vulnerable voters, including our low-income, minority, elderly, disabled, homeless and student citizens by requiring all voters to present a DOT issued Wisconsin driver’s license or photo ID in order to obtain a ballot,” Moore said. “The bill further strips the homeless of their right to vote by eliminating a voter’s right to utilize corroboration by another registered user.”
Moore said she likens the bill to a poll tax, which forces voters to pay before voting. However, Walker disagreed.
“If someone doesn’t already have a license, the Department of Transportation will issue state IDs free of charge,” he said.
The bill was passed in committee on Friday and will soon be debated in the State Senate.