The latest proposal to require Wisconsin voters to show photo identification at the polls appears to be dead on arrival. The Republican Legislature passed a photo ID requirement in 2011, but courts blocked it soon after, and it is not in effect. A pair of Republican state Assembly members circulated a new bill Thursday, with the hope of holding a hearing next week and taking a vote later in November. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told The Associated Press he does not plan to take the bill up in the Senate. Fitzgerald said it makes more sense to see what happens with lawsuits currently pending in both state appeals and federal court, including one that’s headed to trial starting Monday. “We should sit tight right now,” Fitzgerald said. The bill would have to pass the Senate and Assembly in identical form, and be signed by Gov. Scott Walker, before taking effect. Fitzgerald said even if that were to happen, a new law would just trigger another round of lawsuits. Enacting a photo ID requirement has been a top priority of Republicans for years. They were stymied by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who vetoed such a requirement three times between 2002 and 2005. Republicans took full control of the Legislature in 2011 and quickly passed the bill.
Republicans backers argue photo ID requirements help combat voter fraud. Democrats counter that Republicans have never produced evidence of any widespread fraud in Wisconsin and that the mandate would keep poor people, immigrants and senior citizens from voting.
“We’re confident that Wisconsinites will see this latest round of voting restrictions for what it really is — a cynical ploy to keep voters away from the polls,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate.
The 2011 law was quickly challenged in court, and last year a Dane County judge ruled that the law is unconstitutional. That case is now before the state Court of Appeals.
The trial over a separate federal lawsuit is scheduled to begin Monday in Milwaukee. Those challenging the law, including groups that deal with issues of racial justice, say the law disenfranchises black and Hispanic voters because they’re far less likely to have one of the types of state-issued IDs required to vote.