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Activists Urge People to Prepare for Voter ID in 2015

Next Tuesday is Election Day in Wisconsin. Voters will not have to show photo identification, but the state’s photo ID law could be in place for 2015.

Community activists are urging people to prepare. The U.S. Supreme Court recently blocked Voter ID in Wisconsin for the November election. Anita Johnson shared the news at churches in Milwaukee’s central city.

“I said it about three times and the parishioners were clapping and shouting because they were so excited because they didn’t have to show an ID to go to the polls because it has been a hard fight,” Johnson says.

The high court has not yet decided whether it will consider the constitutionality of the law. But Johnson’s group is moving forward on the assumption that Photo ID will be in place for next spring’s elections. Johnson works with Citizen Action of Wisconsin. It’s urging people, not to become complacent.

“Because we do not have the pressure of the election on us, it does not mean you should not get a Voter ID. If you don’t have a Voter ID, by all means you still should get one, because I cannot promise what will happen in February and you need to get an ID in case we have to show that for the February election,” Johnson says.

Acceptable forms of identification include a driver’s license, passport, military ID or state-issued ID. In order to get a state card for voting, people must visit a DMV office and bring along supporting documents – such as a birth certificate. The agency will process the necessary paperwork, free of charge.

A few weeks ago, when it appeared Wisconsin would enforce its Photo ID law, Patricia Ruiz was swamped with calls, from people needing assistance. She works with the South Side Organizing Committee. Now, Ruiz says, her phone barely rings. So, she’s urging members of the Latino community to start the process now, if they want to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

“We know life happens and there’s a lot of things that happen around our lives. Somebody could get sick, we might not have transportation, we might not have documentation so we have enough time now to get the documents we need for the ID, then we can find ways to get to the DMV,” Ruiz says.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin plans to tackle the ID issue on another front. Executive Director Andrea Kaminski says it will lobby the Legislature to modify the law. She says, for instance, lawmakers could expand the forms of acceptable identification.

“Or, we’d like to see them add a clause that allows people to sign an affidavit, something that says I don’t have an ID, one of your short list of IDs, but I swear I am the person I say I am knowing that if I’m lying I’m committing a felony with severe consequences that would be up to three years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine,” Kaminski says.

In court battles over Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement, opponents estimated the number of registered state voters without acceptable identification – at more than 300,000.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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