Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Citizens scrutinize, endorse Voter ID bill’s facets

Citizens packed a committee hearing Wednesday morning on a controversial bill that would make Wisconsin the fourth state to require residents to show photo identification at polling stations in order to vote.

The Senate Committee on Transportation and Elections, chaired by Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, overheard testimony from citizens, advocacy groups and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on a Voter ID bill. The bill would require citizens to have and show a form of photo identification, such as a drivers license, state ID or military ID.

Those who testified gave both positive and negative reviews of the bill.


“Requiring photographic identification to register or vote at the polls is a common sense measure to enhance the integrity of the election process and help restore public confidence in election,” Van Hollen said.

He added it is easy to commit voter fraud, while difficult for poll workers, law enforcement and prosecutors to identify fraudulent votes.

However, studies from Van Hollen’s office about past votes have found low percentages of voter fraud. In the 2004 presidential election, only 18 out of 3 million votes were fraudulent.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, said citizens have already shown support for the bill and asked him to review other aspects of the process to improve vote integrity.

Some citizen advocacy groups in the room did not support the voter ID bill and testified against it, claiming the bill would be expensive – estimates from the Fiscal Legislative Bureau reach $2.5 million – and disenfranchise voters.

Specifically, the bill could disenfranchise minority groups, the elderly, the disabled and students, Milwaukee National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President James Howell said.

Over half the black and Hispanic populations and 23 percent of the elderly population do not have a photo ID in Wisconsin, Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, said in a conference alongside retirees and student representatives before the hearing.

“A 2005 University of Wisconin-Milwaukee study reported the numbers of elderly without license will keep growing with the baby boomers […] to us, Voter ID is a tragedy,” Leon Burzunski, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired American President. 

Students could also lose their right to vote, something that concerns Dane County Supervisor Analiese Eicher, who represents much of the UW campus.

The bill requires first-time voters to register with a photo ID that has their current address on it. The UW student population is transient, Eicher said, and most move to a new residence once a year. Having to keep the address current on a student’s ID would mean getting a new license often, an expense that could be better spent on books, rent or food.

Increasing demand for IDs also means increasing demand on Department of Motor Vehicle resources.

Voters might not be able to get to an open Department of Motor Vehicles office, whether they have no transportation or the DMV in their area operates at inconvenient times.

Thirty DMVs are open full-time outside large population centers, and travel teams available once a week or once a month are utilized to serve counties or regions without access, according to Kevin Kennedy, director of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

Research cited by the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition, a non-partisan body working to increase voter turnout among the disabled community, indicated people with disabilities have a tougher time than the general population to get identification.

Still, the WDVC, like other advocacy groups that testified, said it would support the bill if changes were made to prevent disenfranchisement.

Some changes have already been discussed.

Department of Transportation has plans to begin issuing IDs by mail as early as May, a workable solution so long as IDs are mailed in a timely manner, Kennedy said.

Patients in nursing homes would receive an exemption from the requirement. Citizens with unlisted addresses due to witness protection or domestic abuse protection would receive a certificate allowing them to vote, bill co-sponsor Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, told the committee.

Both Stone and Leibham said they are willing to work with community members to pass the best bill possible.

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