By Karen Stokes
On September 12, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved an injunction blocking the state of Wisconsin from implementing voter ID laws that require voters to show photo identification in order to vote.
The voter ID laws have been a polarizing topic for the last few years. Scott Walker approved the voter ID law in 2011, it was challenged by opponents of the law and then blocked by state and federal judges.
Those in favor of the law, believe that it will prevent voter fraud at the polls.
Those opposed of the law not only believe that there isn’t a substantial voter fraud problem, but believe the law prevents Americans from casting their vote on Election Day.
This decision came into effect only seven weeks prior to the November 4 election.
According to the L.A. times, the heated race for governor between Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke is the tightest race in the nation.
The September 17, Marquette University Law School poll shows Walker and Burke tied at 46 percent among all registered voters.
This is the fourth Marquette poll in a row that indicated a close race for governor where there is no obvious front runner.
In a statement released by his office, Scott Walker said, “Voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process.
The ruling makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
Burke responded recently at a campaign stop in La- Crosse, “I think it presents a roadblock and a hurdle to certain people particularly those that don’t have transportation and therefore don’t have ID’s.”
Burke noted it is important that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices have the capabilities to give ID’s to voters who need them.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation provides free state ID cards for voting.
According to the Government Accountability Board (GAB) website the following photo IDs are acceptable for voting purposes: Wisconsin driver’s license, Wisconsin identification card, military ID, U.S. passport, certificate of naturalization, a driver’s license receipt issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, an identification card receipt issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, an identification card issued by a Native American tribe in Wisconsin, and a photo identification card issued by a Wisconsin accredited university or college.
In a news conference Kevin Kennedy, elections director at the Wisconsin GAB said, “Anyone who doesn’t have the proper ID on Election Day can cast a provisional ballot. They would then have until 4 p.m. on the Friday after the election to present the required ID to have the vote counted”
“Election clerks will undergo additional training and additional staff will be hired,” Kennedy said.
There are presently 300,000 Wisconsin residents that don’t have an ID for voting this November.
Access to the DMV which is critical for many who still need IDs to vote, may be challenging.
Information gathered by One Wisconsin Institute, a nonprofit advocacy organization, shows that of the 92 DMV offices in Wisconsin, 31 are open during regular business hours, Milwaukee has two sites that are open on Saturday, and Madison area has one site open on Saturday. In northern Wisconsin, there are a few DMV offices are only open two days a week.
There are at least 30 states that require some form of identification to be presented at the time of voting but 11 states have passed strict photo ID requirements. Currently: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, South Dakota, Hawaii and now Wisconsin have strict photo ID requirements and many of these are being challenged in court.
Several civil rights advocate groups are filing a motion for an en banc rehearing in a case challenging the state’s restrictive voter ID law.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Dechert LLP and Advancement Project filed to “protect the voting rights of Wisconsin citizens”.
In a press release from the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the NAACP-Wisconsin and Voces de la Frontera have filed an emergency motion with the Wisconsin Supreme Court seeking a modification to the court’s decision to delay the 11th hour implementation of the photo ID requirement for purposes of the November 4 election.
Adding to the confusion, there are stories of an armed Wisconsin “Poll watcher militia” of conservative activists who plan to confront voters who signed the petition to recall Scott Walker, check for names of Democrats on the list and intimidate African-American voters on Election Day, according to MSNBC.com.
Democratic Senator Lena Taylor responded, “The Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia has threatened to harass minority and urban voters on Election Day.
This group is nothing more than a modern day klan, and is [an] illustration of voter suppression efforts in Wisconsin and all over the country.
The fact is Republicans are scared and are doing everything in their power to prevent people from voting.
Mary Burke is gaining ground with voters and likely voters despite all the efforts to disenfranchise voters on behalf of the GOP, polls show Mary Burke and Walker in a dead heat race.
Republicans believe if they can skim the vote with voter ID, harassment and voter intimidation tactics they will gain an edge. We cannot let an ID, threats from a “militia” group or anything from preventing us to vote.
We must come together as a community and assist all those who need an ID and get them registered to vote. We didn’t let police dogs, water hoses and burning crosses stop us before; we won’t let these bullies stop us now.”
Anyone not currently registered to vote, you may do so by mail up to 20 days before the election, in person, at the municipal clerk’s office up to the Friday before the election and in person the day of the election. To register at the polls you are required to have a proof of residence and a valid photo ID.