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Wisconsin Recall Elections a Sure Thing, but New ID Law May Undercut Anti-Walker Vote

Wisconsinites' efforts to protect democracy—in the workplace and through the ballot—are rapidly escalating on two key fronts.

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Holder’s Justice Department has refused to give clearance to South Carolina’s new voter ID law, as the former confederate state is still subject to Justice Department approval under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (But Gov. Nikki Haley -- despite no evidence that voter impersonation fraud has occurred in her state -- is launching a lawsuit challenging the Justice Department’s authority and thus the foundation of the Voting Rights Act).

While the Justice Department has no similar power to overrule Wisconsin’s voter ID law, the department could still presumably hold hearings in the state to help document the hardships that the law would cause in Wisconsin. Democratic legislators have been clamoring for nearly a year for the Justice Dept. to find some means of intervening in the state.

Despite Education Efforts, ID Law May Lower Recall Vote

More than 300 people attended a January 11 seminar in Milwaukee aimed at educating senior citizen, civil rights, and disability activists to help marginalized people obtain photo IDs so that they can vote in this year’s critical gubernatorial and presidential elections.

About 178,000 people 65 and older in Wisconsin lack a driver’s license or a state photo ID, said Stephanie Sue Stein, director of Milwaukee County’s Council on Aging, the principal sponsor of the event.

Senior citizens face multiple problems obtaining all the documents necessary to obtain a photo ID, said Congresswoman Gwen Moore, a Democrat and Progressive Caucus member representing Milwaukee. For example, one of her constituents tried to obtain a birth certificate but discovered that the Southern county courthouse containing the document had burned down.

In other cases, said voting rights activist Jaime McBrady, many states require copies of a photo ID before they will issue a copy of a birth certificate, creating a “Catch-22”  situation that prevents people from getting the photo ID needed to vote in Wisconsin.

Rep. Moore told  In These Times that she believes the Justice Department unfortunately has limited power to intervene in Wisconsin. “We’re not a pre-clearance state under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act like South Carolina, she noted, “and the Supreme Court has held that laws like Indiana’s [photo ID law] are not the equivalent of a poll tax.

“But the court’s ruling still leaves a little door open,” she said. "If a voting law creates a burden to a large number of people, then it may be invalid. And compared with Wisconsin, Indiana has a much higher percentage of people with photo IDs and Department of Motor Vehicle offices are open for much longer hours than Wisconsin.”

Unless the law is overturned -- either by the courts or a new governor presiding over newly-flexible legislators -- the new law seems a major threat to a high turnout during the recall election. Stein warned that an all-out effort will be needed to educate the public about the new restrictions. But some heart-breaking results may be inevitable, she says.

"There will be many senior citizens who get to the polls and discover that for the first time in their lives, they are not allowed to vote."



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