State Democrats called for the state Legislature to fund a campaign to educate voters about the voter ID law in a Thursday press conference.
Under controversial 2011 legislation, Wisconsin voters are required to provide ID in order to participate in elections. Since the bill’s inception, state Democrats have railed against the legislation as a direct effort to suppress minority voters who are less likely to hold a state-issued ID, namely a driver’s license.
Democrats are now turning to the 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, which was supposed to fund a public campaign to inform voters about the new ID requirements and has thus far not done so. State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, was a co-sponsor of Assembly Bill 987, which would provide the Government Accountability Board with $500,000 to conduct an information campaign. Their effort, however, was not awarded a hearing by the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections and was not brought to a vote.
“The April 5th election proved why the Legislature needs to fund a public education campaign on Wisconsin’s Voter ID law,” Wachs said in a press release. “There are many stories of people who had trouble voting or were turned away at the polls simply because they weren’t aware of the changes that were made.”
Despite claims from Democratic leaders that voters were restricted from participating in the April 5 election, Wisconsin saw its highest voter turnout for a primary since 1972, according to unofficial reports. Although this elevated number could be attributed to unusually exciting presidential primaries for both parties, reports by sheer numbers show only small inequalities between votes cast by Democrats and Republicans at 1 million and 1.1 million respectively.
Although the Legislative Republicans can add the April 5 primary to their arsenal in support of voter ID laws, Democrats like Wachs said they will continue to fight for education efforts.
“At a time when we should be encouraging more voter participation, Legislative Republicans are making it significantly more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote,” Wachs said. “This cannot stand.”