MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Assembly Republicans are expected this evening to pass the most restrictive voter right scheme in the nation that will disenfranchise tens of thousands of legal voters, including seniors, students, minorities and working Wisconsinites. One Wisconsin Now believes the current legislation will likely end up in court, costing the state of Wisconsin millions of dollars when eligible voters are denied the franchise.
“Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans could cost us millions of dollars in lawsuits when eligible voters are denied their right to vote due to the legislature’s hasty and unconscionable passage of the most restrictive voter law in the nation,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “There is no voter irregularity in Wisconsin, but the Republican legislative majority and Gov. Walker are desperate to rig the elections in their favor. For them, keeping their partisan political power is more important than the rights of the people.”
The bill’s authors, Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greenfield) and Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan), are modeling their bill after Indiana’s Voter ID law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Indiana, however, provides its residents exponentially more access to its Department of Motor Vehicles offices to obtain the photo identification. 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. The 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 177,000 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]
The need to expand the numbers and operational hours of Wisconsin DMVs to provide appropriate access could increase the $70 million biennial Wisconsin DMV budget by as much as 50 percent – on top of the current $5 million price tag to provide free identifications.
Wisconsin and Indiana have similar voting age populations (4.35 million vs. 4,8 million), but Wisconsin is 50 percent larger geographically than Indiana (54,314 sq. miles vs. 35,870 sq. miles). Indiana not only provides its residents 50 percent more DMV offices than Wisconsin has (140 to 91), but also nearly three times the total hours these facilities are open.
Additional statistics about Wisconsin lack of accessible DMVs compared to Indiana:
- Twenty-six percent of Wisconsin’s 91 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.
- Three Wisconsin counties have no DMVs, no Indiana county is without a DMV.
- Over half of Wisconsin’s 91 DMVs are open on a part-time basis, while Indiana provides full-time DMVs in every county.
Republican claims of widespread voter irregularity have long been debunked. After a two-year investigation, Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen has found only 11 potentially-improper votes cast out of nearly 3 million votes in 2008. Former Wisconsin U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush, Steve Biskupic concluded after a similar investigation there was no widespread voter fraud. The majority of charges in all of these cases involved felons who were technically ineligible to vote.
“The Assembly Republican Election Committee chair admitted just the other day, that this bill is being fast-tracked because of new circumstances,” said Ross. “The only new circumstance is that the Republicans attack on workers’ rights, public education, health care and seniors prescription drug access has put their majority in immediate peril.”
Map of Indiana’s DMVs
Map of Wisconsin’s DMVs open two days a week or more
Map of Wisconsin’s Patchwork of DMVs