This fall, a three-judge panel of the US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Wisconsin’s voter ID law, making it necessary for all voters to show a form of photo ID before voting.
Voting is a right of the people and something that should not be limited without good reason. Wisconsin’s voter ID law makes it difficult for certain people to exercise their right to vote. This law requires all voters to show a photo ID with a signature before voting.
Acceptable IDs are Wisconsin driver’s licenses, US Passports and military IDs. It may be simple enough for people who have a valid ID to vote, but not for those who do not. The people most affected by this law are college students, low-income people and minority groups.
Having a Wisconsin driver’s license is a problem for many college students. If they are not Wisconsin residents, but come to Wisconsin to attend college, odds are they have a driver’s license form their home state. Even if they are living in Wisconsin, they cannot vote because out of state licenses are not valid.
In some states, university IDs are accepted to vote, but the only University of Wisconsin (UW) school whose student ID is valid is UW-Superior. Other UW schools including UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee are moving to update their student IDs so students can use them to vote, but for now students must request this new form of ID, and many do not know about the change.
In addition, any student who uses a college ID to vote must also prove that they are enrolled in classes at the time of voting by showing their class registration. If they happen to forget either the ID or the registration, they cannot vote.
It is difficult for college students to vote, and low-income families also face this challenge. Low-income people and racial minorities are less likely than other groups to have a driver’s license, either because they cannot afford a car or a license itself. Another reason that some people do not have a driver’s license is because you must present your birth certificate to obtain one, and it costs money to receive a copy of a birth certificate.
Recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared that forcing people to pay for a birth certificate for a driver’s license is unconstitutional because that would be a tax on voting, which is not allowed. Instead of charging for a birth certificate, people must apply for a license or photo ID through the DMV. The DMV will then check with other state agencies to confirm the person’ identity. This is not a quick or easy process. All of these students, racial minorities and low-income people will not have as much motivation to vote because of how hard it will be to obtain the credentials to do so.
Voter ID laws are a very partisan issue. The judges on the court of appeals who upheld the Wisconsin voter ID law were all appointed by republican presidents. Usually, republicans support the voter ID laws and democrats do not. Republicans claim that this law will help prevent voter fraud, but according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “There is no credible evidence that in-person impersonation voter fraud – the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent – is even a minor problem.” Voter fraud is not a problem in Wisconsin, and odds are it never will be, with or without voter ID laws. This is simply the republican’s guise for instituting the law. In reality, they know that college students, the poor and racial minorities are usually among the groups that are likely to vote for the democratic candidate, and by upholding the voter ID law, they are making it harder for democrats to vote, and in turn, to win. Not only is this law discriminatory to minorities and young people, but it is ridiculous that it was implemented just months before a gubernatorial election.
Wisconsin has always valued voter participation. By upholding these laws, all we are doing is making it harder for people to vote. With such a huge and important election right around the corner, this is exactly opposite of what our swing state needs to be doing.
by Hollabrook (Olivia Holbrook)