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Wisconsin Voter ID Laws Cause 'Needless And Discriminatory Barriers' Says Voting Rights Advocate

Wisconsin voter ID laws have been in place since 2011.

Milwaukeeans are already lining up outside early voting locations to cast their ballot in this year’s election. Many have already voted by mail or absentee. No matter how Wisconsinites choose to make their voice heard this year, they’ll all have to show proof of who they are. 

READ: Wisconsin 2020 Election: Key Deadlines For Voter Registration, Voting Absentee And In Person

Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been in place since 2011. Peter Burress is the campaign manager for All Voting is Local, a non-partisan voting rights project. The group is working to identify and fight discrimination at the ballot before it happens and improve education around voting. 

Buress explains that voters can use a number of IDs, it is not just limited to state issued driver’s licenses or state IDs. There is a full list of alternate IDs that can be used for voting or voters can get a voter ID card from any DMV. The voter ID has less requirements for necessary paperwork and is free of cost.

“What the DMV recommends is bring what you have, so if you have a proof of name and date of birth, like a birth certificate, bring that. If you have proof of identity like a social security card, proof of where you live like a utility bill, if you have citizenship paperwork,” says Buress. “You don’t have to bring any of those if you don’t have them, you know, this is the safeguard in place that no matter what Wisconsin law assures us that folks can get a free ID for voting.”

Buress says for many Wisconsinites, getting proper ID is a barrier to the ballot box that people should not have to face.

“Since the photo ID law was implemented, we’ve seen a lot of ways in which it’s created needless and discriminatory barriers to the ballot. Particularly thinking about Wisconsinites of color, Wisconsinites with disabilities, students, rural Wisconsinites, low-income Wisconsinites,” he says.

2016 was the first presidential election where voter ID laws were fully enforced and according to Buress, that turned away anywhere from 17,000 to 23,000 voters in just Milwaukee and Dane counties.

He hopes that efforts like All Voting is Local have helped educate voters about Wisconsin’s voter ID laws so that those voters will not be dissuaded by the law.

From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.