A recently passed bill aims to clear up the standards for municipal IDs by preventing towns and counties from issuing them. It has, however, also been the source of major controversy among the state’s immigrant population. 

The bill also clarifies that voters can no longer use any city, village, town or county issued photo ID card previously used for proof of residence for voting registration. But opposition has expressed concern the legislation will make it harder for immigrants to contribute to their communities.

The legislation 

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, a sponsor of the bill, said under the legislation, towns and counties would not be able to issue IDs. Currently, there is no set statute regarding whether local IDs, otherwise known as municipal IDs, can be used to vote. Lawmakers wanted to lessen confusion surrounding the types of acceptable voter IDs by clarifying that municipal IDs cannot be used to vote, Sanfelippo said.

“[Republican lawmakers] wanted to find the best way to [issue municipal IDs] so that it doesn’t become confusing because if you let anybody do it you could have counties doing it, cities doing it, villages, towns — I mean you literally could have hundreds of different IDs throughout the state,” Sanfelippo said.

Currently, local IDs cannot be used to vote and the bill does not change this.

Community concern

Karma Chávez, University of Wisconsin communication arts professor, said another concern is these IDs help immigrants achieve local services like obtaining library cards, bank accounts, health care or prescription drugs. Chávez said the bill makes these IDs harder to obtain and is “anti-immigrant.”

Anita Johnson, community organizer at Citizen Action of Wisconsin, worries if people are only allowed to vote with state IDs, then residents will be hindered when trying to vote.

“Currently you can go to the DMV and ask them for an ID because you need to vote,” Johnson said. “[Republicans] want to stop people from getting free IDs to vote.”

The matter of voting

According to the Wisconsin DMV‘s website, citizens who are eligible to vote can receive a free voter ID card from the Department of Motor Vehicles if they do not currently have a valid, unexpired driver’s license. An expired driver’s license is also an acceptable ID for voting.

But Sanfelippo said the bill does not prevent people from getting voter IDs because residents will still be able to obtain free state IDs from the DMV, which are the IDs that are used to vote.

“The state IDs are free so anybody who wants a state ID can get one for free, so the affordability issue is not there and as far as access, I don’t know where the problem is with the access,” Sanfelippo said. “If somebody can’t get to the DMV office, how are they going to be able to get down to the court house or city hall to get an ID?”

Currently, state voter IDs are free, but driver’s licenses are not, according to the DMV’s website.

Sanfelippo said cities and villages would still be able to issue these IDs, just not counties and towns. Cities and villages have “home rule” under the state constitution, which allows them to set rules or laws within their jurisdiction, Sanfelippo said.

But Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, said in an Assembly session undocumented immigrants do not want to use these IDs to vote, but rather for local services like libraries and museums.

“[Immigrants] don’t want to use these IDs for voting,” Zamarripa said. “They want to use them to be contributing members of society.” 

The question of fraud

Sanfelippo said if cities and villages are going to issue municipal IDs, they should be clearly labeled that people cannot vote with the ID. He said an official-looking ID without the clarification could make it confusing at the polls for both the voter and the poll worker. 

Johnson said voter fraud isn’t a big enough problem in Wisconsin to make a priority.

“My priority is to make sure that people get out to vote by giving them the correct information so they can vote,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said there is currently only 0.1 percent voter fraud in Wisconsin.

Sanfelippo said there is a lot of confusion over the bill and what the IDs can and cannot be used for. These IDs cannot be used to vote, and the bill will make it easier for municipalities to issue IDs by setting clear guidelines for what the IDs can be used for, he said.

“This bill stops the county from [issuing IDs],” Sanfelippo said. “In fact, I would argue that it will be easier for [cities and villages] to issue an ID under this law.”

The Senate passed the bill 19-13 and the Assembly passed it on a 62-35 vote Tuesday.  The bill now heads to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk.