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Wisconsin Voter ID Bill Signed Into Law

When buying alcohol, going through airport security or even buying groceries with a credit card people are required to show a photo identification card.

Thanks to a bill signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker May 25, state residents will now need to produce a photo ID to vote.

First Assembly District Representative Garey Bies (R – Sister Bay) voted in favor of the bill, which passed 60 – 35 in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Rep. Samantha Kerkman, (R – Powers Lake), who Bies sits next to in the Assembly, told him about a woman in her district who got to the polls and was told she had already voted, when in fact someone had voted in her name.

“I believe in the integrity of the vote,” Bies said. “I don’t want to show up at a polling place and have someone tell me I can’t vote.”

The new law requires Wisconsin residents to show a photo ID when they arrive at a polling place, which supporters said will combat voter fraud. The ID can include a driver’s license, a state ID card, a tribal ID, a military ID, a passport or naturalization papers. Previously, voters who registered at the polls only had to show proof of residence, such as a phone bill or copy of a lease, and some form of identification to vote in their district. The identification did not have to include a photo.

College students would be able to use their student ID cards as long as the cards have their signatures and expire two years after the card is issued.

Those who have been victims of sexual assault or stalking are exempt from the requirement, as are those whose religious beliefs conflict with having their photograph taken, according to the bill. Those who are exempt have to have a sworn affidavit documenting their situation in order to vote.

Should a voter forget their ID on voting day, Bies said the law has a provision allowing poll workers to place the vote in a sealed envelope until the end of the week. Citizens then have until Friday to prove their identity and have their vote counted.

The law reduces early voting from four weeks to two weeks, and also pushes the residency requirement back to 28 days from 10 days, meaning voters have to have lived at their current address 28 days prior to election day.

Seasonal workers who arrive in Door County in time for spring elections may not be able to vote if they haven’t lived in their polling district for 28 days. The same is true for part-time residents who spend half the summer months in Door County and their winters in warmer climes.

Local Effect

Door County Clerk Jill Lau said the county has had no instances of voter fraud in recent memory. She said voter fraud is a problem in larger communities such as Milwaukee and Dane counties, however.

Bies noted this also, pointing to tactics perpetrators use such as voting under the names of recently dead citizens.

“In the larger communities people go from polling place to polling place, check the latest obituaries and vote in [the deceased’s] place,” he said.

Following the creation of a state task force in 2008 to investigate voter fraud, 20 people have been charged with the crime. Eleven of the 20 were charged with voting despite being felons, and two were charged with double voting. One man was charged with obtaining an absentee ballot on behalf of his dead wife so he could “fulfill her dying wish” to vote for President Barack Obama, according to a Wisconsin Department of Justice statement.

Susan Kohout, a member of the Door County League of Women Voters, said the cases of voter fraud that have been prosecuted would not have been prevented by the new law, making its implementation an unnecessary expense for the state.

“We feel it’s an expensive law that didn’t need to happen,” Kohout said.

The Iowa State Association of County Auditors estimates that implementing that state’s voter ID law has cost $10 million since 2005. Estimates for the cost to Wisconsin taxpayers have yet to be released.

In a statement released by the League of Women Voters (LWV) May 18, LWV Executive Director Andrea Kaminski called the measure unwarranted.

“The residents of Wisconsin have done nothing to deserve the most restrictive voting law in the nation,” Kaminski said.

Wisconsin’s law is among the most restrictive in the nation in that a voter’s identification must include a photo. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 10 other states have a similar policy, while 18 states do not require a photo ID, but some form of identification.

Citizens will not be required to show identification until the primary elections in February 2012.

Residents in nursing homes or those who don’t have IDs can get them from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at no charge, Bies said. The DMV in Sturgeon Bay is open from 7 am – 5 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Dennis Hussin, who owns homes in Jacksonport and in Wauwatosa, said he supports the law.

“You need identification to do anything else and for an important thing like voting, I think you should have it,” he said.