Using the false pretext of widespread voter fraud, conservatives constantly attack the ease with which some people can vote. The centerpiece of their attack on voting is the insistence on requiring a current photo ID to vote. A study by Rutgers and Ohio State University last year shows the effects of such strict requirements. The study found that states which imposed ID requirements reduced voter participation by about 3 percent. This is hardly the right direction for a democracy that only thrives with increased participation. These kinds of requirements had a much larger impact on African Americans which had a 5.7 percent drop in voting. The study found that Hispanic voters suffered a 10 percent drop in voting in states that have strict voter ID requirements.
A UW-Milwaukee study found that fewer than half of African-American and Latino adults had ID. The situation was even worse for young adults ages 18-24, with only 26 percent of African-Americans and 34 percent of Latinos possessing a valid license, compared to 71 percent of young white adults. The same study found that an estimated 23 percent of persons aged 65 and over do not have a Wisconsin driver’s license or a photo ID.
Not only would a voter ID requirement suppress voter turnout but it would also disenfranchise very specific segments of our society. All of this and it wouldn’t even address the actual complaints most often cited by conservatives at election time. The effort to make voting more complicated is a very transparent and political one. Wisconsin should be proud of its record of high voter participation, not looking for ways to drive it down to serve very narrow partisan interests.