A Supreme Truth: Voter ID Is Voter Suppression

State Supreme Court Decision Ignores State Constitutional Right to the Franchise, Inaccessibility of DMVs, Hundreds of Thousands Without ID

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin State Supreme Court’s decision on Gov. Scott Walker’s discriminatory Voter Identification bill utterly ignores the inaccessibility of Department of Motor Vehicles, compared to Indiana, where the law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. While today’s action will have no immediate effect on voters due to a federal case before the courts, several facts make the state courts ruling all the more alarming.

“Looking at precedent in Indiana, it is clear, the state of Wisconsin is simply unequipped to administer this law and ensure legal voters will not be disenfranchised or subject to a poll tax,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive. “Gov. Walker and his Republican allies want to rig the system to their advantage and the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court is aiding and abetting this fraud.”

The bill originally was based on Indiana’s Voter ID Bill. According to the Supreme Court case upholding Indiana’s Voter ID bill, the lower court found, “99 percent of Indiana’s voting age population already possesses the necessary photo identification to vote under the requirements.” The Supreme Court concluded that Indiana’s law was constitutional, specifically because so few Indianans were without the state-issued photo identification.

Wisconsin’s population is substantially less likely to have a state-issued identification. A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study showed that the following numbers about those without state-issued photo identification and who would need to obtain one under the Wisconsin Voter ID bill:

  • Over 178,000 elderly Wisconsinites
  • 17 percent of white men and women
  • 55 percent of African American men and 49 percent of African American women
  • 46 percent of Hispanic men and 59 percent of Hispanic women
  • 78 percent of African American men age 18-24 and 66 percent of African American women age 18-24
    [Driver License Status of the Voting Age Population in Wisconsin, 6/05]

Additional statistics about Wisconsin’s lack of accessible DMVs compared to Indiana:

  • Twenty-six percent of Wisconsin’s 92 DMVs are open one day a month or less, while none of Indiana’s are open less than 100 days a year and nearly all are open over 250 days a year.
  • Wisconsin has only one DMV with weekend hours, while Indiana has 124 offices with weekend hours.
  • Until recently, three Wisconsin counties had no DMVs, no Indiana county is without a DMV.
  • Over half of Wisconsin’s 92 DMVs are open on a part-time basis, and only two DMVs are open in the state after 5:00 p.m., while Indiana provides full-time DMVs in every county.

Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, Republican claims of widespread voter irregularity have long been debunked. After a several-year investigation, Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen has found only 11 potentially-improper votes cast out of nearly 3 million votes in 2008, majority of charges in all of these cases involved felons who were technically ineligible to vote. In addition, there are fewer than three dozen similar cases dating all the way back to 2004 out of 14 million ballots cast in Wisconsin elections during that time period.

Ross concluded, “The real fraud in Wisconsin elections is when politicians manipulate the rules on voting to give themselves an unfair partisan advantage. The right to the franchise is enshrined in our state Constitution, regardless of Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to deny many their right to vote.”

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