A closely watched federal trial is set to begin Monday over a Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. The outcome could set a precedent for legal challenges in dozens of states that have imposed or stiffened voter ID requirements in recent years. The Wisconsin law passed in 2011 and was in effect for the February 2012 primary, but it was later blocked when a judge handling a separate state lawsuit declared the measure unconstitutional. Advocates have pursued a federal trial while that decision and others are appealed. Supporters maintain the Republican-backed law is needed to combat voter fraud, but opponents contend it’s nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to disenfranchise poor and minority voters. Voter ID remains a contentious issue in many states. This year alone, 30 states considered legislation to introduce, strengthen or modify voter ID laws.
The trial starting Monday involves two federal lawsuits filed by civil rights groups, one of them brought on behalf of Bettye Jones, a 77-year-old black Brookfield woman who had difficulty voting because she had neither a state-issued driver’s license nor a birth certificate needed to acquire one. Jones’ daughter, Debra Crawford, spent months fighting with state officials to get her mother an acceptable ID. “This was such a burden, in terms of time, emotional energy and finances,” Crawford said. “It took sheer determination to make this happen.”
Jones, who died after the lawsuit was filed, was born at home in 1935 in Jackson, Tenn. Her birth was never registered, which wasn’t uncommon with home births in that time and place. Jones was able to get a driver’s license as an adult in Ohio, but when she moved to Wisconsin in 2011, the state told her she needed a birth certificate to get a state ID here.
Crawford said that was impossible and it was an “arduous task” to find acceptable alternatives. Jones had gone to a segregated elementary school that has since closed, so school records also didn’t exist. Eventually, state officials agreed to accept birth certificates from Crawford and Jones’ siblings, along with Jones’ high school records from Ohio that dated back to 1956.
Full Article: Federal judge to consider Wis. voter ID lawsuit.