wisconsin capitol
Press Release
February 12, 2015

One Wisconsin Institute Files Brief in Support of Appeal to Wisconsin Photo Identification Requirement for Voting

Despite Severe Lack of Access, Law Enshrines Department of Motor Vehicles as Virtual Gatekeeper to the Franchise

MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Institute has filed an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing an appeal of Wisconsin’s photo identification law, suspended from enforcement by the high court in October 2014. The brief, filed on Monday in the case of Frank v. Walker, exposes how the severe lack of access to Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices is a significant barrier to ballot access and enshrines the DMV as a virtual gatekeeper to ballot access for thousands of legal voters.

“Gov. Walker and his Wisconsin legislative cronies have pursued an aggressive agenda of manipulating the laws on voting to try to gain an unfair advantage,” said One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director Scot Ross. “Nowhere is it more obvious than the photo ID requirement they’ve enacted, despite full knowledge of the barriers inadequate access to Department of Motor Vehicles facilities presents to Wisconsin voters.”

In their brief One Wisconsin Institute legal counsel Rebecca Mason points out many Wisconsin voters do not have reasonable access to the state’s DMVs, resulting in a significant barrier to ballot access. In total, 92 DMVs are spread across 56,145 square miles, leaving roughly 50,000 voters without access to public or private transportation more that 10 miles from a DMV service center.

In addition, most of Wisconsin’s DMV service centers are open for very limited hours – only a third open 5 days a week, most only open 2 or 3 days a week, some only open a day or two a month, one open only 6 days each year.

Ross noted that the data demonstrates Wisconsin citizens have significantly less access to the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain a state identification than citizens in Indiana, where an earlier, split decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that state’s voter ID law. Although Wisconsin has 50 percent more square mileage than Indiana, Wisconsin has only 92 DMV locations compared to Indiana’s 140 Bureau of Motor Vehicle service centers. And while 124 service centers maintain weekend hours in Indiana, merely 3 Wisconsin DMV offices are open on weekends.

One Wisconsin Institute’s filing focuses on the dearth of DMV access for Wisconsin voters, but their plight is not unique in the nation. In Mississippi and Alabama, roughly 30 percent of the eligible electors without vehicle access reside at least 10 miles from a DMV service center. In Georgia, the number is 16.6 percent – which represents more than 66,000 eligible electors. And nearly 14 percent, or approximately 135,500 Pennsylvania eligible electors are in the same situation.

“The politicians that passed the Wisconsin photo ID law and those charged with administering it are well aware of the barriers a lack of DMV access creates for otherwise legal voters. We’re appealing to Supreme Court to step in to protect access to the franchise in Wisconsin and other states where a similar indifference to DMV access creates an unnecessary and we believe unconstitutional barrier for legal voters,” concluded Ross.

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One Wisconsin Institute is a non-partisan, progressive research and education organization dedicated to a Wisconsin with equal economic opportunity for all.

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