Wisconsin Throws Up Hurdles to Voting -- Where's the Democracy?

Wisconsin Throws Up Hurdles to Voting -- Where's the Democracy?
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Last week, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin introduced a bill in the state legislature that would require all voters to present a state-issued ID at the polls before receiving their ballot. If it passes, the law would be the most restrictive voter identification bill in the country and would disenfranchise thousands of voters.

What would the bill mean for young people? For starters, it would no longer allow student IDs to serve as a valid form of identification. So unless a student has a Wisconsin driver's license or a state identification card, they're out of luck. Moreover, it would directly affect 60,000 students who come to Wisconsin from out-of state, including those who are registered to vote -- and may have already voted! -- in Wisconsin in previous elections.

Take, for example, a student at UW-Milwaukee from Minnesota who spends 9 months a year (and maybe more) in Wisconsin. Despite having full reciprocity at Wisconsin schools (an arrangement between the two states that allows non-residents to have all the benefits and rights of an in-state student, including in-state tuition), that student would not be eligible to vote in Wisconsin unless they obtain an ID issued by the Wisconsin government. As everyone knows, including presumably the politicians writing this bill, students and everyone else targeted by this (including lower income and elderly voters) shouldn't be forced to spend the time or money (it costs $28 for a new photo ID) to get an otherwise unnecessary ID.

What is particularly galling is that elected officials are supposed to be representing the student's interests on a local, state, and federal level and their votes have a profound impact on everything from local taxes to tuition to funding for top professors. Sadly, this is only the most recent example of voter suppression and, in a state like Wisconsin that has a history of making it easier for people to register to vote through their "election day registration" law and encouraging participation across the board, it is particularly disappointing.

The target of the proposed law is nefarious-sounding -- and practically non-existent -- incidents of "voter fraud." As the League of Women Voter's points out [http://bit.ly/hyd2RU], this claim is "preposterous": "No one can point to a single case of impersonation of another voter," which is what voter ID law would aim to stop.

As a result of this misguided action, lawsuits have been threatened. Local elections officials are balking. College students are voicing opposition for the bill, as are local voter advocacy groups.

Bottom line: This bill will add a giant and unnecessary hurdle to the voting process and the people of Wisconsin need to call on their elected representatives to reject it.

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