A sweeping Republican bill designed to reinstate voter photo identification requirements in Wisconsin would force poor people to humiliate themselves at the polls and scale back absentee voting opportunities, opponents warned during a public hearing on the proposal Tuesday. Rep. Jeff Stone’s bill would make a host of changes to state election law. A key provision would allow voters to opt out of showing photo IDs at the polls if they swear before the chief inspector and sign an affidavit saying they’re poor and can’t obtain identification without paying a fee; have a religious objection to being photographed; or can’t obtain the proper documents needed to acquire photo identification. Stone, R-Greendale, told the Assembly election committee during Tuesday’s hearing that the provisions are designed to overcome a court decision nullifying voter ID requirements in Wisconsin.
The state Justice Department is appealing the decision, which said that the law substantially impairs poor people’s rights to vote, noting birth certificates are needed to obtain the IDs and voters who lack the certificates must pay to obtain them. A state appeals court last week reversed another decision that found the requirements were unconstitutional. Two other lawsuits are still pending.
Critics tore into the bill during Tuesday’s hearing, saying it would embarrass poor people. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, tried to tamp down that contention, insisting a
person would simply swear his or her affidavit is true.
“You don’t stand up there and say, ‘I swear that I’m poor,'” Vos said.
Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters Wisconsin chapter, maintained the bill requires exactly that.
“This can be humiliating to take an oath in front of your neighbors about your financial status,” she said.