Voter ID changes being sought in Assembly 
Would allow exception for those too poor to get ID

Written by Logan T. Carlson, Central Wisconsin Sunday


MARSHFIELD — Republicans in the state Assembly are fast-tracking a bill that would modify Wisconsin’s voter ID bill to allow an exception for those who declare themselves to be too poor to get an ID card in order to vote.

The bill was introduced on Monday by Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, and is expected to be up for a vote in the Assembly by the end of the week.

At a public hearing of the bill Wednesday, Schraa said he felt the need to introduce the changes to the state’s voter ID law in hopes of getting it in place quicker, as it faces numerous legal challenges.

“With delays that are already taking place, it could be years and years before courts reach an ultimate decision, leaving our elections in doubt,” Schraa said during his testimony.

Local Democratic representatives blasted the proposal, saying it opened up low income voters to intimidation and possible investigations.

“It’s really a misguided attempt by those who don’t understand the face of poverty,” said Rep. Katrina Shankland, D- Stevens Point. “I think this proposal further stigmatizes the working poor.

“Voter ID is trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” Shankland said. “There are very few voter fraud cases in the state and in the country. It’s a straw man’s argument.”

If a voter felt they were too poor and could not obtain a photo ID, they could sign an affidavit stating as such.

The Department of Transportation is required to give free photo IDs to those who want one, but voters might have to get birth certificates or other documents to do so, which can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars.

“People in Wisconsin are very proud people. There shouldn’t be a test if you can afford it or not,” said Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore. “People shouldn’t feel they are being accused of something when they haven’t done anything wrong.”

Under the proposal, a voter who casts a ballot without showing a photo ID would have their ballot marked in the same way a challenged ballot currently is. Because the bill does not define who would be considered sufficiently poor enough for the exemption, it would be up to local district attorneys to use their discretion in investigating claims of someone improperly declaring their indigence.

The bill is not expected to be taken up to the Senate because Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has said he wants to wait until all the legal questions surrounding voter ID have been settled by the courts.

The 2011 law signed by Gov. Scott Walker has been held up in various legal challenges in both state and federal courts. A federal trial in Milwaukee began Monday, and is expected to last another week.

Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, and Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, did not return messages seeking comment for this story before deadline.

Logan T. Carlson can be reached at 715-384-3131 ext. 328. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/logantcarlson.