Wisconsin citizens who may be turned away from their polling places in the next election are beginning to share their stories. Ruthelle Frank has voted in every election since 1948 but she’s no longer eligible. Wisconsin’s voter ID law requires a photo ID for voting and a birth certificate is needed to obtain the photo ID.
Born in 1927, Ruthelle has never had a birth certificate. Her name was misspelled at birth and, to obtain a correct birth certificate, she must petition a court at a cost over $200. On her limited income, she can’t afford this amount.
Ruthelle has served on the Brokaw Village Board since 1996. She has a baptism certificate, a Social Security card, a Medicare statement and a checkbook. Without a photo ID, however, Ruthelle can no longer vote and she finds the prospect of being turned away at the polls infuriating.
Rita Platt and her two small children live in a rural part of Wisconsin. To obtain the required photo ID, she needs to visit a Department of Motor Vehicles office. Unfortunately, the nearest DMV office is open only one day each month. The office is a 30- minute drive away and Rita doesn’t have a driver’s license. To exercise her right to vote, she’ll need to take time off from work, find transportation and pay an expected total cost of over $100.
The American Civil Liberties Union has compiled 17 cases of Wisconsin citizens who face obstacles to voting. The ACLU is challenging the voter ID law in federal court. The League of Women Voters is challenging the law in state court.
Are these stories the tip of an iceberg? Evidence suggests that a significant number of citizens may face similar predicaments.
A 2005 study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute found that an estimated 177,399 Wisconsin residents 65 and older don’t have a driver’s license or state photo ID. That’s 23 percent of older citizens.
The study estimated that another 98,247 residents ages 35 through 64 lack IDs. These disparities were especially pronounced among racial minorities.