Despite the voter ID bill’s author’s statements to the contrary, the hearing held Wednesday on the controversial measure saw members of the voting public testify that requiring photo identification at the polls would disenfranchise many vulnerable citizens across Wisconsin.
Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, testifying with Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, before the Assembly Elections Committee, said his bill would be a reasonable check to ensure the person obtaining a ballot on election today is really the person they claim to be.
“The types of IDs mentioned are possessed by almost all the citizens of Wisconsin currently,” Stone said. “Those who do not possess this and are unable to obtain one because they are indigent … it will be provided for them under this legislation.”
Leibham told the committee the Legislature is serious about passing the voter ID bill and said the public should begin planning for the change.
Under Stone’s bill, voters would be required to show a Wisconsin driver’s license, state issued identification card, passport, naturalization certificate or identification from the uniformed services, like a military ID.
After the lawmakers finished testifying, the committee began hearing public testimony. Aside from two women from the Republican Women of Waukesha County who both expressed support for the measure, a majority of the people at the hearing were opposed.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Nikiya Harris, who represents a predominately black district, called the bill the most restrictive in the nation and she said it could potentially disenfranchise thousands of Wisconsin residents.
“People are coming to me saying it’s going to be tough to get off their jobs and they tell me they don’t have or need a license because they don’t drive and use public transportation,” Harris said, adding later, “With this particular bill, I believe it is to put a halt on the democratic process, making it very difficult for the people that look like me to have representation that look like them.”
The bill would not accept University of Wisconsin System student IDs, and a number of UW students lined up to testify against the bill. They were concerned about out-of-state students being forced to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and claim residency in Wisconsin in order to vote in local and state elections.
UW senior and out-of-stater Maggie Bahrmasel, 21, said there’s only a small window of time during her day when she would be able to go to the DMV because she’s either at school, at work or studying into the night.
UW senior and Illinois native Rebecca Dobrez, 22, said UW students are affected by many local elections and the bill would bar out-of-state students from voting in those elections that directly impact them as campus area residents.
The voter ID bill Stone drafted is slightly different from a similar one introduced in the Senate earlier this year, and also includes moving the primary elections from September to the second Tuesday in August, ending straight party ticket voting, except for military and overseas voters, and requiring voters to be a resident for 28 days instead of 10 before an election.