A federal appeals court in the United States has permitted the requirement that voters in the state of Wisconsin provide photo identification before they are allowed to fill out their ballots.
According to the fifteenth amendment of the American constitution, voting rights cannot be denied or abridged on the grounds of “Race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” However, many advocacy groups have argued that a new law that has been recently restored in Wisconsin could be in direct violation of this exact amendment. The implications of this new requirement point to certain citizens being denied the right to vote. The presentation of identification can be particularly difficult for racialized and impoverished individuals, who are known to vote in favour of the Democratic Party.
Advocates of the new law have argued that the provision of identification will curb the potential threat of voter fraud, and will therefore increase the public’s confidence in voting procedures.
Is voter fraud really an issue in Wisconsin?
Judge Lynn Adelman of the Federal District Court for the Eastern district of Wisconsin, remains in stoic opposition of the law, along with judges from across the United States. They have found that the risk of in-person voter fraud is negligible. Judge Adelman said that “Virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin.”
Given these facts, what purpose could the new law really serve?
Many opponents of the new regulations have said that the requirement of photo identification is nothing more than a voting-suppression tactic that is aimed at reducing the number of votes obtained by the Democrats in the upcoming election. This makes sense, since it has been found that little voter impersonation actually takes place in-person, and that these regulations would only stop fraudulent votes that are cast at the voting booths. Thus, it could be argued that these regulations are targeting certain populations, specifically certain demographics.
One of the main proponents of the new law is Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, who, along with a largely Republican state legislature, originally approved the new requirements early in 2011. The requirements will take effect for the fast-approaching November election. The chief opponent is Mary Burke, a Democratic leader. Therefore, questions could be raised as to whose campaign will be most affected by the new law. Simply put, who stands to lose more votes; the Republicans, or the Democrats?
It has been estimated that almost 300,000 voters will be affected by this change in voting regulations. Blacks and Latinos, as well as those with unequal access to transportation and civil services, will be disproportionately affected. Among the most direly affected are those predicted to vote in favor of the Democrats, given that said party is often more likely to create policies that provide aid to disadvantaged citizens. These are the same citizens who, under the new identification requirements, will be rendered unable to vote. Obviously, all of this is bad news for Mary Burke, whose campaign is in direct opposition to Gov. Walker’s campaign for re-election.
Wisconsin officials have stated that voters lacking photo identification will be able to take advantage of a new procedure that would present voters with free voter IDs. However, those who do not hold birth certificates or other key identification will not receive their free voter ID. Thus, voters who are applying to receive identification just before the election may not receive their new IDs in time. This new process seems to be a meager response to a growing discontent with the perceived exclusion of certain voters that will most likely take place as a result of the new regulations.
It seems that without any adequate method of procuring proper identification for the upcoming election, those without birth certificates, or other valid identification will be left behind at the voting booths. This could have serious ramifications on the results of the upcoming election, with the Republicans having the most to gain from diminished voter turnouts.