Voter ID plan is unneeded, expensive, harmful

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Andrea Kaminski
Monday, January 17, 2011
— The League of Women Voters calls on lawmakers to reject a new bill requiring citizens to show a state-issued photo ID every time they vote. This unneeded legislation would harm Wisconsinís tradition of clean, fair elections.

Candidates last year promised their top priority in office would be to address the economic crisis. Yet now it seems their first priority is to add to the stateís deficit by passing a costly law that does not solve a problem but will keep many eligible Wisconsin residents from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

The claim that voter ID will save the state from widespread voter fraud is preposterous. Illegal voting is exceedingly rare in Wisconsin, and no one can point to a single case of impersonation of another voter.

The state Department of Justice substantiated 18 cases of illegal voting out of the almost 3 million votes cast in the November 2004 election. Most of these were felons who were unaware they were not allowed to vote. There were a few cases of double voting by individuals who had already voted absentee or who owned more than one home and apparently thought they could vote in more than one municipality. These are examples of illegal voting, but the voter ID would do nothing to prevent them.

An estimated 11 percent of the population nationally does not have the type of ID required by this bill. The legislation would place an unfair burden on people who do not need a driverís license or who move frequently. In particular, it would impact the elderly, people with disabilities and students.

The authors claim the bill provides for state-issued ID at no cost to the individual, yet it does so only if you know enough to specifically ask the Division of Motor Vehicles to waive the fee. Also, the bill says that once the federal Real ID Act is implemented, people will no longer be able to get free IDs. The bill exempts elderly or disabled individuals who live in certain group settings, but others will have to arrange round-trip transportation to the nearest DMV office, which may be in the next county. Also, many people will have to apply at a personal cost to get copies of their birth certificate or other required documentation.

The bill would add to state and local deficits. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that implementation of the 2005 voter ID bill would cost the DMV $2.3 million annually, in addition to an indeterminate cost to local governments for training and support of election officials.

There is no such thing as a free voter ID. There are significant ongoing costs for state and local governments, as well as indirect costs for citizens who apply for the ID.

An expensive law that does not solve a problem but keeps eligible citizens from voting is a net loss for democracy. It has no place in Wisconsin.

Andrea Kaminski is executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that promotes informed and active participation in government. There are 17 local Leagues in Wisconsin. To join or for more information, go to our website at www.lwvwi.org. Readers can contact Kaminski at (608) 256-0827 or kaminski@lwvwi.org.

Last updated: 4:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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