One of the chief authors of Wisconsin’s voter photo identification plan is shopping around a new bill designed to allay legal concerns that the requirements are too burdensome by letting poor people opt out. Republican lawmakers passed voter photo ID requirements two years ago, saying the move was needed to combat election fraud. But a pair of Dane County judges struck the requirements down in separate lawsuits last year. One ruled the requirements were unconstitutional because some people entitled to vote might lack the resources to obtain an ID. The other said the law substantially impairs the right to vote for poor people, noting birth certificates are required to obtain the IDs and voters who lack them must pay for them. The state Justice Department has appealed both decisions. Two federal lawsuits challenging the requirements are still pending.
Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, was one of the main sponsors of the voter ID bill two years ago. He began circulating a new measure last week that would make a multitude of changes to Wisconsin election law, chief among them provisions that would allow voters to opt out of showing photo identification if they sign an affidavit for poll inspectors saying they’re poor and can’t obtain the identification without paying a fee; have a religious objection to being photographed; or they can’t obtain the proper documents needed to acquire photo identification.
Those voters’ ballots would be marked and canvassers could review them for validity in the event of a recount, Stone said. Municipal clerks or election commissioners also would be allowed to investigate the voter’s qualifications.