Ninety-one years ago, women won the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. Without being able to participate in the election of their state and federal officials, the women suffragists found support — and ultimately the votes they needed — in Congress and state houses across the land. Then they created the League of Women Voters to educate voters and affect public policy through citizen education and advocacy.
With such a history, it is no wonder that the league is now concerned about the many eligible citizens who will be disenfranchised by Wisconsin’s new voter ID law. We can’t imagine what we, the people of Wisconsin, have done to deserve the most restrictive voting law in the nation. That is why we are challenging Wisconsin’s new law, while also helping citizens to obtain a voting ID if they do not have one.
The new law places an unfair burden on people who do not need a driver’s license, in particular the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income citizens and students. It excludes anyone who does not have an acceptable ID for any reason.
Do you realize that if your home were to burn down the day before an election, you could lose your right to vote along with everything else? The league is challenging the Legislature’s authority to enact the law. This challenge is different from lawsuits brought in other states because it is based on the Wisconsin state constitution.
The suffrage, or voting, portion of the state constitution defines who may vote, based on citizenship, age and residency. It specifically limits what kind of laws the Legislature may enact affecting suffrage to the following: laws defining residency, providing for voter registration, providing for absentee voting, and excluding felons and persons adjudicated incompetent from suffrage. The constitution allows for amendments that extend the right of suffrage to additional persons, such as when the age for voting was lowered from 21 to 18.
While the constitution allows only the two named classes to be excluded, the new law creates a third class of citizens who may not vote — those who do not have ID.