Monday, April 04, 2016


"In Wisconsin, the path to the voting booth now means a stop at the DMV for many" PBS NewsHour 4/1/2016


SUMMARY:  According to Wisconsin's strict new requirements, voters going to the polls for the April primary must now have a photo ID.  While supporters say the law prevents fraud, critics say that as many as 350,000 otherwise eligible voters could be disenfranchised -- most of them poor and people of color.  John Yang reports on the struggle some face in getting identification.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  In a driving rain, Nefertiti Helem and Ernest Barksdale headed to the Department of Motor Vehicles in downtown Milwaukee.

Neither Nefertiti, who walks with a cane because she has lupus, nor her boyfriend, Ernest, has a photo I.D., and they will need one to vote in next week's presidential primary.  Starting this year, the path to the polling place for many Wisconsin voters includes a stop at the DMV, which has severely cut its hours across the state.

They filled out forms, had their photos taken and waited to hear how they would fare, all with the help of community organizer Anita Johnson.

Wisconsin's strict new voter requirement was signed into law in 2011 by Republican Governor Scott Walker.  It's part of a package of election law changes the Republican-controlled legislature approved along party lines.  Implementation of the law had been delayed by courts.

And then last year, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law to take effect even as a challenge to part of it moves forward.  Opponents say as many as 350,000 otherwise eligible voters may be disenfranchised, many of them poor and people of color.

Neil Albrecht heads up Milwaukee's Election Commission.  He's appointed by the city's mayor, a Democrat.

NEIL ALBRECHT, Milwaukee Election Commission:  We have seen lawmakers change the hours and the number of days that early voting can occur.  We have seen restrictions around voter registration, and we have seen things like the photo I.D. law.  All of those can have some effect on voter participation in an election.

JOHN YANG:  Across the country, 16 states have new voting restrictions in place in this presidential election year.  Wisconsin is one of 10 states with tough voter I.D. laws.  It allows only limited types of identification, including a driver's license, a state I.D. or a passport.

Proponents say the new law prevents voter fraud.

Rick Esenberg is president of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

RICK ESENBERG, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty:  We don't think it's unreasonable to take some precautions to assume — to assure that people won't cheat.

And I don't know quite follow the argument that voting is the one area in life where we — no one will cheat.  People cheat on their taxes.  They cheat on their spouses.  They cheat in a variety of ways.  And I don't know why voting would be something that would somehow be immune from that unfortunate human impulse.

JOHN YANG:  Critics say voter fraud is rare.

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