MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – The League of Women Voters sued Gov. Scott Walker, claiming his new voter-ID bill, Act 23, violates the Wisconsin Constitution by creating another class of ineligible voters. The state constitution allows disenfranchisement of felons and the mentally incompetent – but not citizens who lack photo ID.
The League has opposed the photo ID requirement since it was first proposed in 2003, saying the restriction would not “provide citizens with maximum opportunities for registration, voting at the polls and absentee voting.”
The League adds: “The ostensible and putative legislative purpose of the photo ID requirement created by Act 23 is to ensure the integrity of the ballot and prevent vote fraud in Wisconsin elections. The photo ID requirement imposed by Act 23 will not prevent voting by persons rendered ineligible after a conviction, nor will it prevent electors from attempting to vote more than once.”
Before Act 23 was enacted, on May 25, voters did not need proof of identification to vote at the polls on election day, and could register, and vote, on election day.
“If an election inspector or any qualified elector had reasonable cause to believe that an elector requesting a ballot was not qualified to vote, the elector could be challenged for cause pursuant to Wis. Stat. Ch. 6, Subch. V. (2009-2010.) The vote of a challenged elector was required to be counted, and the elector was disqualified only upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the voter was not a qualified elector,” according to the complaint.
Act 23, however, lists eight types of acceptable documentation: a Wisconsin driver’s license, a state-issued photo ID, military ID, a passport, an unexpired naturalization certificate, an unexpired driving receipt or identification card receipt, an Indian tribe ID, or an unexpired Wisconsin college ID; and, poll workers “must verify that the photograph appearing on the identification ‘reasonably resembles the elector’.”
Under Act 23, if a voter does not have such a photo ID, he or she may be issued a provisional ballot, which may be cast “only if the elector presents an approved photo ID at the polling place before the polls close or to the municipal clerk by 4 pm on the Friday after the election.”
League President Melanie Ramey said in a statement, “The League of Women Voters believes voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed. We are appalled by the stories the League is hearing about the barriers people are facing in trying to obtain an acceptable ID.”
The law requires the Division of Motor Vehicles to waive its $28 fee for state-issued IDs if they are issued for voting purposes. This provision was included to stave off legal challenges to the law as a poll tax. But the League says that to get a free state ID, voters must have a birth certificate, passport or other documentation that do cost money. It also cites the limited office hours of the Wisconsin DMV.
In response to the lawsuit, Gov. Walker pooh-poohed the League’s arguments in a statement: “There are more photo IDs currently issued than there are registered voters in Wisconsin. Requiring photo identification to vote is common sense – we require it to get a library card, cold medicine, and public assistance. I will continue to implement common sense reforms that protect the electoral process and increases citizens’ confidence in the results of our elections. Ensuring the integrity of our elections is one of the core functions of government. Photo ID moves Wisconsin forward.”
The League of Women Voters wants Act 23 enjoined as unconstitutional. They are represented by Lester Pines and Susan Crawford, with Cullen Weston Pines & Bach. Defendants include the members of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board as defendants, in addition to Walker.
Act 23 is scheduled to take effect during the 2012 spring primary elections.