Voter ID debate back in the Assembly

Wisconsin lawmakers expected to begin discussiosn Tuesday


It will be déjà-vu in the Wisconsin Assembly this week when lawmakers once again debate the legality and constitutionality of a voter identification law.

“The problem is, what constitutes an acceptable voter id and how easy access it is and whether you have to end up paying for it, because some people that would be a problem quite frankly,” says Joe Heim, a political science professor at UW-La Crosse.

The first version of the bill passed in 2011, but has been stuck in the court system and never taken effect. It required all voters to show a government issued form of photo identification before receiving a ballot.

The new bill allows people to opt out of showing an ID if they have religious objections to being photographed, are too poor to afford an ID, or can’t obtain the documents necessary to get one. Republicans say they plan on changing that part of the bill after numerous complaints at a hearing last week.


“It’s giving people who may not have the means or the ability to obtain the proper identification, still a chance to have their voices heard, says La Crosse County Republican Party Chair Julian Bradley, ” we have candidates for office too.  We want voters to get out.”

“I think it can work if it’s done carefully, it’s just that the combination of the previous voter id and this one, it will be interesting to see how they blend together,” says Heim.

But the bill is lacking any democratic support.

Representative Jill Billings says that’s because there are other priorities.

“We still rank 45th in job creation in the united states, and I wish we could focus on that, let’s work to create some jobs, we’re working on suppressing the vote.”

“We’ve been in a non-stop election season since 2010 really, with right now being the exception, we finally have a break, and now that we have the break, it’s a good time and a good opportunity to look at ways we can improve the process,” says Bradley.

“We really  don’t have an issue with this, in Wisconsin we have clean elections and this is just creating road blocks for people,” says Billings.

“One of the provisions that’s been added would allow an id card, a veteran id card to count so they wouldn’t need a drivers license or another picture or photo id, and that’s a great provision, but nobody’s talking about it, says Bradley.”

The bill also includes a restriction on early voting, a limit to recalls, and additional documents that can be used as proof of residency when registering.

A hearing is scheduled for the bill on Tuesday, about a week before any action will be taken on the state budget.