The State of Wisconsin will begin requiring voters to present a state-issued photo identification before casting ballots, now that Gov. Scott Walker (R) has signed a key piece of GOP-sponsored legislation into law.
Walker’s signature makes Wisconsin the 11th state to implement the voter ID rules.
Only five Democratic state senators had a chance to vote on Wisconsin’s voter photo ID bill before Republican Sen. Michael Ellis declared the vote closed. It passed by a vote of 19-5.
The new rules would in effect limit the numbers of Democratic voters, according to research (PDF) carried out by New York University. The elderly, poor, immigrant, minority and student voting blocs all tend to lean Democratic. They also have the highest percentages of people without driver’s licenses or other photo IDs.
A valid voter registration card is already required to cast a ballot. Voters must go to their assigned polling places to be checked against the registry.
Republicans claimed the added restrictions were needed to prevent liberal conspiracies to steal elections. Despite these claims, no evidence has been found that would indicate an organized effort to manipulate local elections.
Critics have compared the additional requirements to a “poll tax,” which has been roundly rejected by U.S. courts. Procuring photo identifications costs money in every state, and many require citizens to travel to a state office, stand for photographs and make payment in person.
Walker signed the law just in time for part of the requirements to take effect before the recall elections of six of his allies in the state senate, triggered by voters upset at Republican attacks on union rights.
Voters will be asked to present photo IDs in those recall elections, but won’t actually be required to produce one. People who show up without photo IDs will instead be given a flyer notifying them of the new requirements, which will be fully implemented by the next round of elections.
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