One Wisconsin Institute Files in Ongoing Voter ID Federal Court Case

Provides Court With Information on Significant Disparities in Access to Motor Vehicle Departments for Required ID Between Wisconsin and Indiana

MADISON, Wis. — In an amicus brief filed today with the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Frank v. Walker, One Wisconsin Institute shares research with the court demonstrating Wisconsin citizens have significantly less access to the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain a state identification than citizens in Indiana. According to One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director Scot Ross, the comparison is critical to differentiating Wisconsin from Indiana, where a split decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that state’s voter ID law.

“The legal provisions of the Wisconsin voter ID requirement may be similar to those in Indiana,” said Ross. “But where these states differ dramatically is in the ability of citizens to obtain a required ID. Despite being a more populous and geographically larger state, Wisconsin has fewer Department of Motor Vehicle outlets open for fewer total hours than Indiana.”

In an earlier decision by a three judge panel of the 7th circuit Wisconsin was allowed, but not required to implement a voter ID requirement. However, the panel’s order does not show there was any discussion of the disparity in DMV access between Wisconsin and Indiana — an especially critical consideration with Wisconsin’s November general election mere weeks away.

In the amicus brief, One Wisconsin Institute’s research shows:

  • 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.
  • Hours at Wisconsin’s 92 DMV locations are significantly limited. Only 3 DMV outlets are open on the weekends, only 2 are open after 5pm and merely one third (31) maintain normal business hours Monday through Friday;
  • The limited number of DMV sites and their limited hours of operation could pose significant issues in the volume of requests in the lead up to the election where an estimated 300,000 otherwise eligible voters lack a qualifying ID. In contrast, an estimated 99 percent of Indiana electors had a valid ID for voting purposes in addition to more access to their Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).

Ross pointed to several cases in which Wisconsin DMV access prior to the November 4, 2014 election could be extremely challenging, if not impossible. A total of 49 of the 92 DMV locations are only open two days per week. The DMV in Minocqua will only be open on the day of the November election while the Witttenburg DMV will not be open again before the November election.

In contrast, according to earlier research by One Wisconsin Institute nearly all of Indiana’s 140 BMVs were open five days a week and 124 BMVs were open on the weekends.

Ross concluded, “Wisconsin voters take seriously their civic responsibility and their right to make their voices heard on Election Day. But as we show in our brief, there are significant disparities in DMV access between Indiana, where a voter ID law was upheld, and Wisconsin where the issue remains in dispute mere weeks before an election. We hope the court looks favorably on this compelling disparity that precludes the fair implementation of a voter ID requirement in Wisconsin.”

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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.