Capitol Report: Millions stand to be disenfranchised by voter ID laws, report finds

2011-10-03T14:00:00Z 2012-05-22T17:36:32Z Capitol Report: Millions stand to be disenfranchised by voter ID laws, report findsJESSICA VANEGEREN | The Capital Times | jvanegeren@madison.com | @JVanEgeren madison.com

A new study released Monday by the Brennan Center for Justice has found nearly 5 million voters nationwide will discover their path to the ballot box has changed since the last presidential election, largely a result of a flurry of legislation passed by Republican lawmakers, including in Wisconsin, since the beginning of the year.

The biggest impact, according to the Brennan Center, an advocacy and policy arm of New York University's School of Law, will be from new laws requiring people to show government-issued photo identification in order to vote.

Since January, bills to require photo IDs to vote were introduced in 34 states and passed in five: Wisconsin, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Those five states have a combined citizen voting age population of just under 29 million, with 11 percent, or 3.2 million, of those potential voters not having proper identification heading into next spring's elections, according to the report. It is estimated that in Wisconsin alone some 180,000 seniors lack identification.

The findings come as no surprise to Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters, as the League's Education Fund gears up to file suit against the state over the new photo identification law.

Kaminski says board members will be shown a draft of the suit at their Friday meeting. She says she expects the lawsuit to be filed in Dane County Circuit Court "as soon as possible" after that.

Kaminski says the League is going to argue that it believes the new state law violates the Wisconsin Constitution by creating a "third class" of citizens who cannot vote. Under the state constitution, only two classes of people -- felons still in the criminal justice system and people who have been deemed incompetent to vote -- can be disenfranchised.

"We aren't just saying this law is unfair," Kaminski says. "We are going to argue the state Legislature did not have the authority to pass the law, as they've created a third class of citizens."

She says it is already clear that the law has more of an impact on the elderly, disabled, homeless and students.

Republican lawmakers have long argued that requiring a valid photo ID will combat voter fraud.

In Wisconsin, however, the most recent fraud cases number only 19, prosecuted by the state Department of Justice and Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office after the November 2008 election. Democrats and voter rights advocates argue Republicans are trying to fight a problem that doesn't exist.

Click here to read the complete report.

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