Starting with John F. Kennedy’s victory over Richard Nixon in 1960, Delia Anderson had voted in 14 straight presidential elections. She had cast her ballot at the same polling place for years, never with a glitch. This year, however, a volunteer driving her to the polls mentioned that she would be asked to show a state-approved photo ID. “Don’t these poll people already know who I am?” replied Anderson, who is 77, black and uses a wheelchair, as she frantically sifted through her purse for anything to prove her identity. It was a lost cause. She had planned to vote for Hillary Clinton. Instead, for the first time in 56 years, she did not cast a ballot. “Lord, have mercy,” she said. “What happened to voting?” Such stories abound in Milwaukee, a Democratic stronghold in a state where Donald Trump won by 22,748 votes, a key victory in his path to the presidency. Now, voting rights advocates, elections officials and political experts have zeroed in on the city as a case study of whether controversial new rules requiring ID for voting — the kind used in several states in November for the first time in a presidential election — blocked vast numbers of largely young and racial minority Democrats from casting ballots and contributed to Clinton’s defeat.
In a state that saw its lowest turnout in 20 years, nearly 248,000 people voted in Milwaukee, roughly 41,000 fewer than in the last presidential election.
“I believe it was voter suppression laws from the state government that crushed turnout,” said Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki, one of two officials who oversees local elections. “They tend to hit hardest on people who are poor, who don’t drive and don’t have a license, who are minorities.”