Compiled by Courier Staff
On the national political scene, Republicans have their sights on repealing the healthcare bill. Here in Wisconsin, that same proposal has been discussed as well with the newly contolled GOP legislature. Now, this week, the GOP unveiled its plan to pursue voter ID requirements. What happen to the creating jobs agenda?
Several legislators mostly democratic are outraged at this agenda. State Representative (D-Milwaukee) Tamara Grigsby commented on the continued neglect toward struggling families and job creation by Wisconsin Republicans.
“This is not what the people of Wisconsin asked of us,” said Rep. Grigsby. “How many jobs are created through voter disenfranchisement? We are supposed to be putting people to work, not keeping them from the polls.”
Aside from being unrelated to economic recovery efforts in Wisconsin, Grigsby also noted the volatility and negative fiscal impact that a Voter ID proposal will have on the state. Authored by Representative Jeff Stone and Senator Joe Leibham, the soon-to-be introduced Voter ID legislation closely resembles a voter disenfranchisement law in Indiana, where it was struck down by an Indiana state court in September 2009.
The contentious nature of the issue and the constitutional issues surrounding it make costly lawsuits against any Voter ID law in Wisconsin likely, causing unnecessary legal battles and the waste of limited taxpayer dollars.
In a 2005 state fiscal estimate analyzing the cost of Voter ID legislation in the state, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation stated that such a proposal could cost the state over one million dollars annually. Rep. Grigsby highlighted estimates from late last year by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau that suggested Wisconsin’s now-cancelled high speed rail line could have been funded at a similar cost.
“Estimates show that Voter ID could have the same cost as the high speed rail line that Republicans killed,” Grigsby said. “The difference, however, is that high speed rail would have created jobs, whereas this radical social agenda item does nothing but disenfranchise minorities, students, the elderly, and the poor from their constitutional right to vote. Our focus must be on creating jobs. Let’s not insult the voters of Wisconsin by ignoring their needs and pursuing efforts that are both unwanted and unnecessary.”
It is also important to note that it has never been proven that Wisconsin has a widespread voter fraud problem. Advocates for this change in voting procedure like to tote the idea of preventing ‘widespread voter fraud’, and documentation of this has never been provided.
“The Republican Voter ID bill will waste tens of millions of dollars and create zero private sector jobs,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now executive director. “The Republicans have come up with a budgetbusting, big government solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Ross also pointed out that the bill’s authors, Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greenfield) and Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan), who are modeling their bill after Indiana’s Voter ID law as Grigsby pointed out as well, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Indiana, however, provides its residents exponentially more access to its Department of Motor Vehicles offices to obtain the photo identification. According to the Supreme Court case upholding Indiana’s Voter ID bill the lower court found, “99 percent of Indiana’s voting age population already possesses the necessary photo identification to vote under the requirements.” The Supreme Court concluded that Indiana’s law was Constitutional, specifically because so few Indianans were without the state-issued photo identification.
Wisconsin’s population is substantially less likely to have a state-issued identification. The study showed that the following numbers about those without state-issued photo identification and who would need to obtain one under the Wisconsin Voter ID bill:
- 23 percent of elderly Wisconsinites over the age of 65
- 17 percent of White men and women
- 55 percent of African American men and 49 percent of African American women
- 46 percent of Hispanic men and 59 percent of Hispanic women
- 78 percent of African American men age 18-24 and 66 percent of African American women age 18-24
[Driver License Status of the Voting Age Population in Wisconsin, 6/05]
The need to expand the numbers and operational hours of Wisconsin DMVs to provide appropriate access could increase the $70 million biennial Wisconsin DMV budget by as much as 50 percent on top of the current $5 million price tag to provide free identifications.
Wisconsin and Indiana have similar voting age populations (4.35 million vs. 4.8 million), but Wisconsin is 50 percent larger geographically than Indiana (54,314 sq. miles vs. 35,870 sq. miles). Indiana not only provides its residents 50 percent more DMV offices than Wisconsin has (140 to 91), but also nearly three times the total hours these facilities are open.
Additional statistics about Wisconsin lack of accessible DMVs compared to Indiana:
- Twenty-six percent of Wisconsin’s 91 DMVs are open one day a month or less, while none of Indiana’s are open less than 100 days a year and nearly all are open over 250 days a year.
- Wisconsin has only one DMV with weekend hours, while Indiana has 124 offices with weekend hours.
- Three Wisconsin counties have no DMVs, no Indiana county is without a DMV.
- Over half of Wisconsin’s 91 DMVs are open on a part-time basis, while Indiana provides full-time DMVs in every county.
Republican claims of widespread voter irregularity have long been debunked. After a two-year investigation, Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen has found only 11 potentially-improper votes cast out of nearly 3 million votes in 2008. Former Wisconsin U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush, Steve Biskupic concluded after a similar investigation there was no widespread voter fraud. The majority of charges in all of these cases involved felons who were technically ineligible to vote.
“Wisconsin is unequipped to implement the Republican Voter ID plan without spending tens of millions of dollars for more bureaucracy,” said Ross. “The Republicans told us job creation is job one and now they are breaking that promise a week after taking control in order to rig elections in their favor.”