Subscribe for 33¢ / day
03VoterID068-09182014124303 (copy)

Employees help customers at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Madison East service center on Bartillon Drive.

AMBER ARNOLD -- State Journal

An amicus brief filed in the effort to stop Wisconsin's Voter ID law from being implemented before Election Day focuses on a lack of access for many to Department of Motor Vehicles service centers throughout the state between now and Nov. 4.

The brief, filed by One Wisconsin Institute (the research arm of One Wisconsin Now), demonstrates the differences between Wisconsin and Indiana with regard to implementing Voter ID laws. One Wisconsin Institute's research shows that Wisconsin residents have much less access to DMV centers to obtain necessary identification than Indiana residents do.

A three-judge panel on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 12 that the state could implement its Voter ID law before the midterm election, while it considers the merits of a case brought by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Van Hollen is asking the court to overturn U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman's decision to strike down the law, which was passed in 2011.

The Advancement Project and the American Civil Liberties Union — the groups that first challenged the law in the 2011 federal suit — have asked the federal appeals court for a re-hearing by the entire 10-judge court.

In its Sept. 12 ruling, a three-judge panel noted that Wisconsin's law is "materially identical to Indiana’s photo ID statute," which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in "Crawford v. Marion County Election Board." The decision did not address the levels of DMV access in both states.

"The legal provisions of the Wisconsin voter ID requirement may be similar to those in Indiana," One Wisconsin Institute executive director Scot Ross said in a statement. "But where these states differ dramatically is in the ability of citizens to obtain a required ID. Despite being a more populous and geographically larger state, Wisconsin has fewer Department of Motor Vehicle outlets open for fewer total hours than Indiana."

According to research from the organization, Wisconsin has 92 DMV locations compared to Indiana’s 140 Bureau of Motor Vehicle service centers, even though Wisconsin is 50 percent larger than Indiana in square miles.

The hours at those locations are limited, with just 31 of Wisconsin's DMV centers maintaining normal business hours Monday through Friday. Only two are open after 5 p.m., and three are open on weekends.

Of the 92 DMV locations, 49 operate two days per week. One Wisconsin Institute noted in its brief that four offices are only open for six days each year and one, in Sauk City, is open for just three days this year. 

Getting identification at a DMV location with such limited hours before Election Day presents a challenge. The next time the Minocqua DMV will be open is Nov. 4, the day of the election. The Wittenburg location won't be open at all between the date of the ruling and the day of the election.

Earlier One Wisconsin Institute research found that nearly all of Indiana's 140 BMV locations were open five days per week, with 124 offices open on weekends. When Indiana's law was upheld, an estimated 99 percent of eligible voters had the required ID. 

When Adelman found Wisconsin's law unconstitutional, he cited evidence that 300,000 eligible Wisconsin voters — or 9 percent of the state's electorate — lack the necessary identification to vote under the mandate. 

Adelman also found that those Wisconsin voters who lack ID are disproportionately black and Latino.

The 48 Wisconsin counties that do not have a DMV location open full-time hours represent just over a quarter of Wisconsin's adult population, the Cap Times previously reported, along with a map of the state's DMV offices, color-coded by their weekly number of hours open averaged over a 52-week period.

The law requires a specific type of photo ID in order to vote. Valid forms are driver's licenses, state ID cards, passports, some student ID cards (UW-Madison student IDs are not valid), military IDs, naturalization certificates or IDs issued by a Wisconsin-based tribe.

Voters can cast provisional ballots if they show up at the polls without proper ID. Those ballots will be counted if voters can show a poll worker or clerk a copy of their ID by 4 p.m. on the Friday after the election.

As Madison as it gets: Get Cap Times' highlights sent daily to your inbox

State officials earlier this month announced a new system for issuing IDs, in response to a provision from a state Supreme Court ruling requiring the state to provide a process for people without birth certificates or key government documents to obtain IDs. 

"This reduces the likelihood of irreparable injury, and it also changes the balance of equities and thus the propriety of federal injunctive relief," the 7th Circuit panel's ruling read.

One Wisconsin Institute argues in its amicus brief: "The financial cost of any fees related to obtaining a photo ID, however, is only part of the equation. As the trial court noted, many Wisconsin voters do not have access to the state’s DMVs, resulting in a significant barrier to ballot access despite any fee waiver."

The amicus brief also mentions the Sept. 18 computer outage at the state DMV that prevented all DMV locations from issuing photo ID cards for two hours. 

"With the implementation of Wisconsin’s photo ID law so close to the November election, each and every hour the DMVs are in operation is essential to limit the number Wisconsin citizens who will be disenfranchised. If the photo ID law remains in effect for the November election, there can be no room for technological — or other — glitches," the brief reads.

An amicus — or "friend of the court" — brief is often filed by a party not directly involved in a case in order to call the court's attention to facts or circumstances relating to that case.

Based on the number of hours all DMVs will be open between now and Election Day, if all 300,000 voters without identification sought it in order to vote, the state's DMVs would need to process an average of 20 voters per hour of operation, according to the brief.

Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.