Some Republicans in the state Legislature want to tweak the state’s voter ID law to address objections that are now being debated in federal court. This law doesn’t need to be tweaked. It needs to be rescinded. The changes being proposed and that might be voted on next week would allow people to vote without a photo ID if they signed affidavits stating that they were poor and could not obtain an ID without paying a fee; they had a religious objection to being photographed; or they could not obtain the documentation needed to get an ID. Right. That’s exactly what’s not needed at the polls: different standards for different voters. Democrats who raised objections Wednesday were right. Ballots cast by people without an ID could be subject to more scrutiny than other ballots; people who voted without an ID could be embarrassed by being labeled poor; and they could face investigations for false swearing if someone accused them of signing affidavits if they weren’t qualified to vote without an ID. “It will intimidate (poor people) and then make them even less likely to go to the polls on election day,” said Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee). Of course, that could be the aim of Republican legislators.
Supporters of voter ID laws argue that they’re needed to prevent voter fraud. The problem with that argument is that, as lawyers argued in the voter ID federal trial this week, there is no evidence of in-person voter impersonation, the only type of fraud that would be prevented by a photo ID requirement.
In other words, the law is trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist and, in the process, threatens to keep some people away from the polls. Those who argue that people need ID for all sorts of things in today’s world are right, but they’re missing the point. Voting is not like buying a bottle of wine or cold medicine at the local drug store; it’s a fundamental right that needs to be carefully protected from those who would impose poll taxes or literacy requirements in the past or a photo ID today.