• WisPolitics
1/10/2011

Voter ID is a burden, not a solution

By Jennifer Shilling

The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.

Election reform has been a hot topic of debate in recent years. Too few people vote, polling locations are often understaffed, and special interest spending is at an all time high. While we should be encouraging more electors to participate in our democracy, Republican lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill that would disenfranchise over 100,000 eligible voters by requiring them to show a photo ID at the polls.

Ironically, just a few weeks ago, Republicans were celebrating the end of the high-speed rail line. They said that the state couldnít afford the ongoing operating costs even if it would have created thousands of jobs. But now, with voter ID, it appears that ongoing costs are no longer a concern. Previous estimates have shown that the ongoing costs of implementing the voter ID bill are more than twice as much as it would have cost the state to operate the high-speed rail line. While the voter ID bill wonít create thousands of jobs and help improve our transportation infrastructure like the high-speed rail project, it will likely add three new state DMV employees to help process the extra paperwork.

When you look at all of the facts, this bill is a solution in search of a problem. Despite years of investigations, no evidence of widespread fraud has ever been found. Whatís more, it is estimated that over 120,000 students, senior citizens, and other qualified voters will have their voting rights restricted by this bill. Students who donít have a Wisconsin driverís license with their current address, patients who are hospitalized and canít get to the DMV, and seniors living in a nursing home or retirement community who no longer have a valid driverís license would be most at risk. Additionally, less than half of African American and Latino adults have an ID, and for young adults 18-24 years old, that figure drops to 26% of African Americans and 34% of Latinos. While these eligible voters would all face additional hurdles at the polls, felons with a driverís license and double voters will still be a problem because this bill does nothing to prevent them from violating the law.

Unlike flying in an airplane or renting a movie, voting is a right guaranteed to every citizen by the U.S. Constitution. If we want to have fair and clean elections, we should focus on solving the real problems weíre facing rather than making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

-- Shilling, a Democrat, represents the 95th District in the Wisconsin Assembly.
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