A recent column by Mike Nichols published in many Wisconsin newspapers claimed that “the sky didn’t fall” because of the new photo ID requirement in the Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary election. His sarcasm demeans what should be a serious discussion.
No one ever said the sky would fall or that the advent of voter ID would be the end of life as we know it. Nichols based his conclusion on a self-conducted “poll” of a few people in Sheboygan in a traditionally low-turnout primary election. This tells us nothing about how many ballots will not be counted or whether some eligible citizens did not even try to vote because of an ID requirement they might not be able to meet. The real test will be in the general elections this fall.
Nichols notes that a “few” people in Milwaukee had to vote provisionally — that is, cast a ballot which would not be counted unless they return within three days with a valid ID. I was told there were 17 such provisional ballots issued in Madison. Even if Nichols is not concerned about these “few” possibly disenfranchised voters, he should admit that this is more than the number of cases he can cite of voter impersonation, which is the only type of illegal voting the new law could prevent. In fact, proponents of the ID law have not identified a single case of voter impersonation ever in Wisconsin.
The goal of anyone committed to democracy should be facilitating people’s right to vote, not hindering it. That is why the League of Women Voters is working on three fronts in response to the voter ID law:
Our local leagues have been holding public education forums about the law and assisting individuals who need to obtain a voter ID. The Dane County League has received a grant from The Evjue Foundation to assist county residents who need funding to apply for a birth certificate.
The league is organizing a statewide election observer program to monitor implementation of the law and identify problems people are having with it. Our observers will also be watching for best practices in polling place management which keep the voting process fair and efficient, despite the new requirements to show ID and sign the poll book. We urge people to become election observers by completing the volunteer sign-up form on our website.
The league is challenging the photo ID law based on our state constitution, which does not authorize the Legislature to enact laws that exclude otherwise eligible citizens from voting. Dane County Judge Richard Niess will hold a hearing on our lawsuit March 9, at which we hope he will declare the law to be in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution.
Andrea Kaminski is executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that promotes informed and active participation in government.