Voting in free and fair elections is a cornerstone of today’s version of the American democracy. While voting rights certainly didn’t extend outside white, male landowners when the democratic experiment was written into existence in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as this country has grown, expanded and modernized, so too has the number and scope of people allowed to elect their political officials. As part of the restructuring of the south following the Civil War, the 15th amendment granted African American men to vote. In 1920, women were granted the same right by the 19th amendment after extensive lobbying for a right they deserved equally as much as their male counterparts. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and voting turnouts are despicably low, with the national turnout rate slightly more than 58 percent for the 2016 presidential election. At least 19 states saw a decrease in voter turnout in 2016, a statistic antithetical to previous data showing an increase in voter turnout in presidential races where no incumbent is on the ballot. So, either 42 percent of Americans are disillusioned enough with American politics and the electoral process to abstain from exercising a right so desperately sought after in other parts of the world, or there is something else at play here. Enter Republican-sanctioned voter ID laws.
As of the 2016 presidential election, 32 states now require some form of voter identification laws. Of these 32 states, seven states require the presentation of a photo identification at the polls in order to cast a ballot. Six states, Wisconsin included, have come under fire in both the judicial system as well as in the public eye for voter ID laws that are thought by some to discriminate against minority groups, making it disproportionately harder for them to exercise their right to vote.
The Wisconsin Voter ID law was enacted by Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans in 2011. To vote, people are required to produce either a valid driver’s license, a passport or naturalization certificate, among several other relatively unusual and expensive forms of identification. Immediately, the law sparked outrage from individuals and organizations such as the ACLU, and in April 2014, following a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, a district court ruled the law was unconstitutional.