After the court system became involved in the last voter identification bill, two Republican legislators introduced a “revised” photo ID bill Thursday, which they say strikes a balance between constitutionality and preventing voter fraud.
In 2011, legislators passed bill requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls, but the bill was later blocked by courts and is currently not in effect.
Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, introduced the new bill Thursday to bring back voter ID requirements. However, the bill includes exceptions for those who are not able to get an ID, cannot get their photo taken for religious purposes or do not have enough valid documents to get an ID.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told The Associated Press Thursday he does not want to bring the newest voter ID bill to the Senate until he sees how the pending lawsuits play out. The trials for the pending lawsuits will be brought to court starting on Monday.
Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he supports the bill because it would help regulate ineligible and fraudulent voting.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that voting is our most precious part of democracy,” Vos said. “And when there is a potential that an election could be turned by either votes that were cast ineligibly or fraudulently, it undermines the entire democratic process.”
Vos said more than 70 percent of Wisconsinites support requiring identification at the polls, a number that does not just include people that identify as Republicans, but includes independents and Democrats.
With support from both sides of the aisle, Vos said voter ID requirements should be an issue to discuss and pass.
Melissa Baldauff, Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesperson, said there is nothing about elections in Wisconsin that need change and there is no evidence of voter fraud in elections.
“If anything, we should be doing things to encourage even more people to participate because this is a constitutional right that we are talking about,” Baldauff said.
One of the main concerns Baldauff said she has about the bill is how it could affect voter turnout.
“I think that any kind of changes like [Gov.] Scott Walker and the Republicans are pursuing are clearly designed to suppress the voice of the people that disagree with them,” Baldauff said. “These kinds of bills, it has been found that they make it harder for people to vote, especially people like seniors and veterans.”
Vos said he does not think the bill will affect voter turnout because under the new proposal every person will have the opportunity to get an ID. He said those citizens who cannot afford to get an ID would be able to receive one at no charge from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Vos added voters also have the option to go to the polls on Election Day and sign a form indicating they are not able to get an ID. These voters will then still have the opportunity to cast a vote, he said.
Vos also said the new bill has the right balance to make sure it is constitutional, while not affecting the voter turnout.
Fitzgerald did not return calls or emails.