>Voter ID laws swept across the U.S. after the Republican Party took political control of most state legislatures in 2010. Wisconsin was no exception.
These laws were introduced by legislators who are members of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. During the 2011-2012 state legislative sessions, 62 photo ID laws were proposed in 37 states. An analysis by News21 found that more than half of the proposed laws “were sponsored by members or conference attendees of [ALEC].”
Voters were told that these laws are intended to protect the integrity of our democratic process by preventing voter fraud. In reality, these laws are intended to do anything but protect our democratic process. The idea that there is a widespread voter fraud problem in this country is a myth. These laws are thinly-veiled attempts to suppress certain demographics of the population – including university students – from exercising their fundamental right to vote. If a political party can’t win an election on the merits, it can always attempt to sway the results in its favor by restricting the pool of eligible voters.
The fact is, there is no voter fraud problem in this country. According to a Department of Justice study, from 2002-2005, there were only 26 total voter fraud convictions or guilty pleas of out of the 197 million votes cast in federal elections. This amounts to approximately .00000013 percent of the votes cast. There will always be some fraud – given the massive number of votes, it is statistically likely. But this fraud is an exception to the rule, and it is exceedingly rare.
It cannot seriously be said that these proposals are meant to prevent voter fraud, when there is certainly no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Instead of listening to conservative rhetoric about how these proposed and enacted laws will prevent fraud, we must look at what practical effects the laws will have on everyday American citizens.
According to an Advancement Project study, if they were fully implemented these voter ID laws could deter or prevent 10 million Hispanic voters from voting. Researchers from the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis concluded that “overall turnout this year by young people of color ages 18-29 could [decrease] by somewhere between 538,000 to 696,000 in states with photo ID laws.” According to Cathy Cohen, a University of Chicago expert on young voters and minority voters, “if young people really have valid IDs at a rate of only 25 or even 50 percent, the number of young people of color disenfranchised will be even greater than what we estimate.”
These laws don’t prevent voter fraud. In fact, there is essentially no voter fraud in this country to prevent. These laws were introduced into state legislatures across the country by conservative and corporate ALEC members, and the effects of these laws are to potentially disenfranchise millions of American voters of their fundamental rights. In some states, voters are even required to pay for the required identification in order to vote.This is obviously unconstitutional because it serves as a de facto poll tax.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been blocked by multiple state court judges for various constitutional concerns. The courts have fulfilled their duty to protect Wisconsin citizens’ right to vote, but the truth is that these cases should never have been decided by a court because the voter ID law in Wisconsin should never been enacted.
Regardless, as students in the state of Wisconsin, we need to vote in record numbers on Nov. 6 for state legislators who will protect our fundamental right to vote by repealing these restrictive and repressive voter ID laws.
Aaron Laudenslager ([email protected]) is a first year law student.