Community leaders held a press conference Wednesday morning to announce March as Voter ID Month in Madison, an effort coordinated by VoteRiders and the Dane County Voter ID Coalition that aims to spread awareness of the new voter ID law passed in February.
The original Voter ID bill passed in 2011 and faced legal challenges in the following years. Senate Bill 295, which passed in early February, allows for online voter registration. That bill was met with criticism from university leaders like Associate Students of Madison due to the difficulty it can present to voters who do not have access to computers.
Speakers at the conference included Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, president of the Dane County NAACP Greg Jones and Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, who all expressed disapproval of the new law.
“Three years ago the Supreme Court struck down significant requirements of the Voting Rights Act that had stood for 50 years and provided protection from disenfranchisement and racial discrimination in the election process,” Jones said. “Since then, [state legislatures] have wasted no time enacting discriminatory laws and policies that place an unfair burden on minorities, the elderly and students.”
According to VoteRiders representatives, the main concern with the law is its inconvenience to students, the elderly and minority groups. He said they are unlikely to go through the extra steps or financial burden involved with obtaining an ID.
According to McDonell, another main issue with the bill is the confusion about what constitutes a valid ID. He cited a study conducted in Texas, a state with similar voting laws, which showed that 13 percent of potential voters did not vote because they thought they lacked proper identification.
“There is a lot of confusion out there,” McDonell said. “I’m really glad that this coalition has been formed to educate the voters of Dane County.”
Throughout March, according to the conference speakers, volunteers and coalition leaders will reach out to Dane County residents to ensure they know how and where to obtain a proper ID.
“We’re going to make sure that the laws that were set up to close the ballot box fail in their effort to jeopardize democracy,” Soglin said.