We know that Wisconsin Republicans are scrambling to pass every right-wing bill they can think of before the recall elections in July, when they could lose control of the state Senate. Among the first of those efforts is a voter supression bill that would disenfranchise many Wisconsin voters.
Wisconsin’s bill requires voters to use a driver’s license, state ID, military ID, passport, naturalization papers or tribal ID at the polls. Though student IDs are technically permitted, none of the colleges or universities in the state currently use IDs that meet the requirements listed in the bill. And as state Sen. Bob Jauch (D) notes, 175,000 seniors (70 percent of whom are women) do not have driver’s licenses and may have to “get a ride at least 50 miles round trip to obtain an identification card to enable them to continue their constitutional right to vote.” What’s more, the bill will cost the state more than $5.7 million to implement — at a time when Gov. Scott Walker (R) is claiming the state is broke and needs to restrict public employees’ collective bargaining rights to survive.
And there’s another twist to this saga. If the bill passes and becomes law in time, it would take effect for the recall elections. In fact, that was one of the two amendments to the bill that passed out of the Joint Finance Committee yesterday – that it would take effect immediately upon passage. So this is a straight-up suppression tactic designed to save GOP Senators by increasing burdens on voter groups – particularly students, minorities and the poor – who traditionally vote for Democrats. State Rep. Jennifer Shilling, who plans to run in the recall election against Sen. Dan Kapanke, put it best: “We were all wondering why there’s such a rush on this bill — now we know… it’s about the recall elections. You feel the rules need to be changed right in the middle of the game.”
There’s the possibility of suing over the bill under a variety of laws, but the Supreme Court allowed Indiana’s voter ID law to go forward, and this is mainly similar, so I don’t think an injunction will work in this case. If this passes, it will be in place for the recalls in all likelihood.
The only positive is that the Joint Finance Committee amended the bill to eliminate the requirement that eligible student IDs would have to carry correct addresses. I don’t know if this makes the student IDs currently used by colleges available for use, but under the former requirement no college ID in the state met the criteria. Perhaps the removal of the address will make some student IDs eligible. It’s not like you’ll see a mass distribution of new student IDs in time for July.
The argument here is that it’s relatively painless to get an eligible ID like a driver’s license, but of course this isn’t true for many people who don’t drive and have no need for such an ID in their daily lives. Even if the state issues free IDs to those who need them, it’s still a matter of getting to the distribution office and verifying the information. This is a voter suppression bill, and that’s been true everywhere it’s been tried.
With the Joint Finance Committee having passed the bill, it moves to the state Assembly, which will probably pass it this week. The Senate Majority Leader promised to “shepherd it through” after that.
People might want to get back to the rotunda with their drums and loudspeakers.