67-year-old Leroy Switlick is angry. He’s angry because he’s made three separate trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in Milwaukee to get a photo ID so he can vote in next month’s general election. Each time he’s come away empty-handed. Leroy has voted in every presidential election for more than 40 years, but Wisconsin’s new voter ID law means that even though he’s registered, he will not be able to cast his ballot without showing photo ID such as a driving licence or passport. “It’s silly,” he says. Switlick, who has been partially sighted for most of his life, never learned to drive – and so never had a driver’s license. He was not previously required to have a state-issued ID for any other purpose. “The first question the man behind the counter asked me was ‘Can I see your photo ID?’ Now if I’m coming to get a photo ID, how can I already have a photo ID?” Each time he visited the DMV, he took a satchel full of documents including his birth certificate. But the DMV never actually examined his papers.
On the second visit, the official he had been told to ask for simply didn’t show up; and on the third occasion, accompanied by a lawyer, he was told the computers were down, though officials at DMV’s head office told his lawyer later there had been no record of a computer problem on that day. Leroy says the clerk just shrugged his shoulders and said “I don’t know.” He’s is one of an estimated 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin who may not have the requisite ID to cast their ballot under the state’s new rules.
… The Brennan Center at New York University has been keeping track of voter ID legislation around the country. It says that despite the striking down of laws in states such as North Carolina, there are still eight states that will have strict photo ID laws for the first time in a presidential election, accounting for more than 80 electoral College votes out of 538. “We’re not just talking about 10 people here and there”, says Adam Gitlin, counsel in the Democracy programme at the Brennan Center.
“Estimates suggest that 11% of eligible voters in the United States lack one of the forms of photo ID that are generally required by these strict photos ID laws, and they are disproportionately black, Latino, low income, students and elderly voters.”