By Matt Pommer
The Republican-controlled government is pushing ahead with legislation to require government-issued photo IDs to vote in Wisconsin elections. Republicans claim they want to prevent fraud, but it should benefit the GOP in future elections.
Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the director of the Government Accountability Board have denounced the Republican efforts, but their concerns unlikely are to derail the efforts. This is a major partisan move by the Republicans.
Making it difficult for students and the poor to vote should make sure that the Republican candidate for president gets Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes in 2012. The Republican Party was founded in Wisconsin in the mid-19th century, but in the past 50 years only Richard Nixon (three times) and Ronald Reagan (twice) have captured Wisconsin’s electoral votes.
President Obama received 56 percent of the Wisconsin vote in 2008, but the Democratic margins were 5,708 votes in 2000 and 11,386 in 2004. Wisconsin can be a toss-up state. More than 2.5 million votes were cast in 2000, while nearly 3 million votes were cast in the past two presidential elections in Wisconsin.
The Republican measures would require specific government-issued photo identification in order to vote. An Assembly committee agreed that student IDs could be used if it contained the student’s campus address.
Current student IDs lack addresses because of security concerns. Often the IDs are key cards to dormitories and other campus buildings.
Common Cause estimates the bill will require at least $5 million to pay for photo IDs for people who cannot afford them. That’s a “total waste of scarce taxpayer money in a time of record budget deficits,” according to a Common Cause statement.
GAB Executive Director Kevin Kennedy said college students already had low voting participation. “In order to cultivate engaged, active citizens, we need to facilitate voting among our youth rather than imposing artificial barriers to participation,” Kennedy said.
LWV Executive Director Andrea Kaminski has even harsher words for the Republican effort.
“Any proposal that restricts voter registration or raises barriers to voting is a fear-based approach instead of a fact-based solution,” she said. There were less than two dozen voter-fraud cases reported in the last election.
“When one takes a closer look behind the political smokescreen, it is clear that this bill’s restrictions will disproportionately impact those who are at least likely to have a current photo ID — the elderly, young people, people of color, rural voters and low-income individuals.” She didn’t say it, but her list includes people who likely are to give their votes to Democrats.
Republicans already have gutted the power of public-employee unions, groups which have supported Democrats in state elections. The voter ID is a perfect companion piece to make sure that Wisconsin is a solidly Republican state.
Matt Pommer worked as a reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.