By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Wisconsin now has the dubious distinction of having been one of the most lenient states in terms of encouraging voter participation to now being one of the most restrictive. This 180 degree turn of events is a direct result of the voter ID legislation that was ramroded through the Legislature earlier this year.
One of the major concerns that was raised during the legislative debate was the reality that it would create a financial hardship for poor, elderly and infirmed residents who don’t have photo identification or the ability to acquire one from a state Department of Motor Vehicles office. Hence, the clear legislative intent was to provide a free ID to ALL residents whose circumstances apply.
Just last week, the public had a rare opportunity to glance behind the curtain at the Department of Transportation. The agency had sent out an email memo to its employees in July instructing them not to provide unsolicited information about free IDs, unless specifically requested. Naturally, this begs the question: At whose instruction was this state agency operating under in promoting departmental policy that attempted to marginalize the full legislative intent.
Remember that inserting this particular provision into the bill was suppose to be a “safeguard” against disenfranchising countless poor, minority and elderly voters. Moreover, the free ID provision was also intended to remove the specter of a poll tax.
This blatant voter suppression scheme was further exacerbated by the revelation that a state worker was fired for sending out an email to remind employees to tell the public That they can obtain a state license for free.
Miss Forward, the ornate statute that adorns the top of the Capitol and allegedly emblematic of the Badger State, has been literally turned around — and deserves a new moniker.