Monday, January 24, 2011

Voter ID Bill: Not Needed, Bad for Democracy

People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing.

~Walter H. Judd (MN Republican Congressman, 1943-1963)

In the November election, 52 percent of eligible Wisconsin voters cast ballots. We pride ourselves on the fact that our turnout is actually higher than in 44 other states, but this fundamental right of democracy is only exercised by a fraction of eligible state voters. Senate Bill 6, currently before the State Legislature, seeks to suppress that number further by essentially disenfranchising those without a driver’s license or state ID card with the voter’s current address. Such a change disproportionately affects the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income people, and people of color in Wisconsin.

Current state law provides that when voters register, they provide proof of their identity with a driver’s license, state ID, or last four digits of their social security number as well as proof of their home address. If these are not available to the prospective voter, they may vote by provisional ballot only.

Following the most recent presidential election, Wisconsin’s Attorney General investigated allegations of voter fraud in the state. Only a handful of suspicious votes were found out of the three million ballots cast. Clearly, there is no evidence to suggest that a change in the current law is needed - particularly a change that imposes unnecessary barriers to participation in our democracy.

By throwing up road blocks for some groups of Wisconsinites, SB 6 will narrow who is eligible to make decisions about the direction of our state in the future.

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