Wisconsin voters would be required to provide photo identification under a bill released early this month by two Republican legislators – a move critics said could disenfranchise some voters in the process.
Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, and Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, introduced the bill Jan. 12 that would make it a requirement to show photo identification when voting or registering to vote. The lawmakers hope the new law would strengthen the integrity of Wisconsin’s voting process.
“Requiring voters to prove their identity is a reasonable requirement and a key step in restoring confidence and integrity in Wisconsin’s election system,” Leibham said in a statement. “The vast majority of Wisconsin voters support this measure of responsibility and the Legislature should approve the photo id legislation on their behalf.”
A similar bill passed through the Indiana legislature in 2005, but questions surrounding its constitutionality brought the law in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled 6-3 to uphold the voter identification law, according to the court opinion.
The court noted photo identification laws only address in-person voter fraud and found no evidence of any such fraud ever occurring in Indiana. However, instances of in-person voter fraud have been documented elsewhere in the U.S. throughout the nation’s history.
Indiana’s bill served as the model for Wisconsin’s photo identification bill, said Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now Scot Ross.
He added the comparison is faulty.
“Close to 99 percent of the voting age population in Indiana had the required voting identification. It’s completely different in Wisconsin,” Ross said.
The new photo identification bill could be a challenge for elderly citizens and out-of-state students who do not have Wisconsin identification.
Stone said there will be a plan in place to get photo identification to those without the means to obtain once for themselves.
Increasing accessibility to Wisconsin citizens needing identification will cost money, Ross said.
A fiscal study to estimate the costs of a similar bill in 2005 determined the bill would have cost Wisconsin more than $1 million in the first year it would have been enacted.
“Quite simply, this proposal is a waste of time and money that is intended to suppress voter turnout in Wisconsin,” Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, said in a statement.
In a phone interview, Stone estimated his bill would cost $1 million to implement. It is a small price to pay to stop fraudulent votes, he said.
Voter fraud does occur, but it is very uncommon, Ross said, citing a Department of Justice study that determined 11 of 3 million votes cast in Wisconsin for the 2008 presidential election were fraudulent.
Stone hopes his bill will make the number of fraudulent votes zero, he said.
Leibham and Stone have attempted to pass voter ID laws three times before, all of which were vetoed by former Gov. Jim Doyle. With a Republican majority, Leibham expects the bill to move through the Legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker, according to a statement from Leibham’s office.