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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024

Voter ID bill a step backward

In today's politics, there is always strategy behind action, motivation behind words and intentions of re-election and party strength behind long-term plans. But that usually does not mean legislation is passed purely for strategic reasons.

And for the most part, politics have not fallen into such a partisan rut that laws are formulated without some form of public interest.

That said, the new Voter ID bill currently making its way toward Gov. Scott Walker's signature looks like an exception.

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Senate Bill 6, if passed, would replace the current election day process in Wisconsin with the most restrictive set of rules in the country. Voters would be required to produce a valid, current photo ID that matches a similarly valid, current address in order to cast a ballot, linking Wisconsin to the eight other states in the nation enforcing photo identification.

In the proposed Wisconsin law, only three accepted forms would be considered acceptable identification: a Wisconsin driver's license, a state-issued ID card or a photo identification certificate. No passports, no military IDs, no tribal identification cards and, most importantly for students, no student IDs.

While the bill seems honorable in its intentions to uphold democracy throughout the voting process, it is easy to see how these changes put a heavy burden on UW-Madison students trying to vote. Many students move frequently, do not have easy access to a DMV and are not residents of Wisconsin.

Asking students to the find time in their schedules to locate and travel to a DMV, get a new Wisconsin ID (driver's licenses cost $28, ID cards are free) or vote absentee in their home districts is not a necessary step to retain election integrity. The bill is indirectly disenfranchising not only students, but minority groups and individuals living with a disability.

The law would also end a system of vouching that allows many students to register to vote. Currently, if a student does not have a utility bill or other means of proving where he or she lives, a roommate can vouch for that person. If the bill is passed, this convenience would no longer be acceptable.

Ostensibly, the reasoning behind these severe restrictions is to prevent voter fraud. Following the 2008 elections, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen investigated less than 20 voter fraud cases and only five were actually charged. He said there is fear of widespread fraud in the state, but in reality there is nothing in the shape of empirical evidence to back those ""fears"" up.

This is a solution in search of a problem. It is a thinly veiled attempt to cut into a segment of the voting population that is likely to vote Democrat and includes poor people, minorities and students who likely will not make extra effort on election day.

Last week, Van Hollen said, ""An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."" That's true in theory, but a properly functioning scale helps, too.

Wisconsin has a long history of encouraging civic involvement, and if a photo ID is deemed necessary to participate, the least we can do is give every citizen a fighting chance to meet the obligations. However, the budget deficit alone in this state gives lawmakers plenty of important decisions to make. We ask Van Hollen, Wisconsin legislators and Gov. Walker to focus on problems that actually exist and not further them.


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