State News

GAB takes up voter ID complaints

Image By: Jon Yoon and Jon Yoon

On a brisk Tuesday morning the Government Accountability Board discussed the perceived successes and pitfalls experienced April 5 due to the implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial voter ID law.

The law, passed in an effort to cut down on voter fraud, has been criticized for making ballot casting burdensome for senior citizens and out-of-state students without Wisconsin driver's licenses, paring down reliably Democratic voting blocs and buoying conservative candidates.

“We know from other states with strict voter ID laws that there is an effect on voter turnout amongst voters of color, voters with less wealth and students and senior citizens,” said UW-Madison professor Michael Wagner following the election. “And most of those people tend to support liberals or more progressive candidates.”

Nino Amato, the president of the Coalition of Aging Groups, a nonpartisan senior citizen advocacy group, addressed the GAB to criticize the voter ID law for stripping his constituents of their democratic rights.

“I do know that some [senior citizens] had expired licenses,” Amato said. “They were unable to cast their ballot.”

A part-time professor at UW-Platteville, Amato also criticized the law for disenfranchising young people.

“I can’t tell you how many students who told me they waited in long lines, or they didn’t have their utility bill, and had a driver’s license from a different state, but wanted to vote in Platteville and were not able to vote,” Amato said.

He suggested the GAB and Republicans approve a request from state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, for $500,000 for a focused educational campaign to let people know how to vote.

The GAB elected to approve a resolution asking the state’s Joint Finance Committee for $250,000 for an education campaign in the fall. While it is unclear whether the JFC will approve the request, co-chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, told the Wisconsin State Journal that the request would be seriously considered.

Others commended the voter ID law, and denied the validity of the law’s criticism. Bob Spindell, a Milwaukee election commissioner, asserted the only adverse effect of the law was to produce long registration lines at universities. Those long college lines, he argued, were due to the simple immaturity of students.

“A lot of students postpone things until the last moment,” Spindell said. “I [asked some students] what do you think about waiting this long? And they said ‘Oh we don’t mind, we had to wait longer to get into a Bernie Sanders rally.’”

He strongly cautioned the board against granting Taylor’s request for election educational funds to alleviate long waiting lines and prevent non-drivers and out-of-state students from being turned away at the polls.

“I think that’s a huge waste of money,” Spindell said. “I would think that this is not worthwhile to do.”

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