One Wisconsin Now Files Open Records Request Related to Department of Transportation ‘Smoking Gun’ Poll Tax Memo

Communications With Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Executive Assistant Sought

MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now has filed an open records request with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to obtain all communications and emails related to the issuance of state identification cards for the purposes of voting under the state’s voter identification bill.

One Wisconsin Now made the request after a memo surfaced in which the top political staffer at DOT, Steve Krieser, directed Department of Motor Vehicles employees to refrain from actively informing the public about the ability to receive a free identification card for the purposes of voting.

“Gov. Scott Walker’s bill has been roundly criticized as a poll tax and now we see the proof,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “We intend to get all the communications that exist related to the Department of Transportation’s execution of Gov. Walker’s anti-voter scheme, and we are prepared to use all legal means at our disposal to get these communications for public scrutiny.”

One Wisconsin Now’s request to DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb asks for “a copy of any and all documents, letters, emails and attachments that were created by, sent or received by yourself, Deputy Secretary Mike Berg and Executive Assistant Steve Krieser between the dates of February 1, 2011 and September 7, 2011, regarding identification cards needed under the Voter Identification bill and administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles. This includes anything related to the memo to the Division of Motor Vehicle workers to not actively inform members of the public that they can obtain voter identification cards free of charge.”

“Wisconsin’s law is already overly burdensome on voters,” said Ross. “The state remains unequipped to administer this law and ensure legal voters will not be disenfranchised or subject to a poll tax.”

Wisconsin’s 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 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 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 less than 20 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 complete request is available at here.

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