Press release from the GAB:
Wisconsin’s first election with voters required to show a photo ID went smoothly, with very few reported problems, according to the Government Accountability Board.
“Overall, we had a good experience with voter photo ID at the Spring Primary election,” said Kevin J. Kennedy, Wisconsin’s chief elections officer. “We were able to resolve the few issues that came up, and we will be following up with local election officials to avoid those issues in the Spring Election on April 3.”
By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute
I hate this time of year. While it’s the time for pitchers and catchers to report for Spring Training in Arizona, it’s also the time of year when colds and allergies collide to make my life miserable. I’m not sure if cough drops violate the fast on Ash Wednesday but they didn’t help enough anyway.
I’m about to head to the local drugstore to get some serious drugs to take care of my runny nose. (If it keeps running, how come it never gets anywhere? See, this cold is even suppressing my sense of humor.) Fortunately for me I’ll be able to buy the good stuff because like almost every other functioning adult in this state, I have a photo ID.
It was also the first election that required a voter to present a state-issued photo id. That meant when a voter showed up at the polls, the poll worker would actually ask to see some identification to prove that the person was who they said they were.
I’m sad to report that there was at least one noted problem at the polls. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane did remember to bring his photo identification, but he admitted on Twitter that he voted for the wrong candidate for judge. Unfortunately, there is no known voting reform that can fix Mr. Kane.
For the rest of the state, the problem was not so much the presenting of the photo identification, as it was those that were opposed to it.
In Oconomowoc, the Waukesha Freeman reports a voter angrily threw his photo id at the poll workers. “It didn’t hurt anybody but it was clearly not just gently lobbed,” said Diane Coenen, Oconomowoc city clerk. Really, the poll worker just needs to see the ID badge, not feel it. Not sure what are ID thrower accomplished except identify themselves as a candidate for anger management classes.
In Racine, the Racine Journal Times reports that one person, Gil Paar, tried to turn himself into a cause célèbre when he presented his U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs card. The card is not on the approved list. However, he was not turned away. He was asked if he could please present his driver’s license. Paar had his driver’s license but refused to show it, preferring instead not to vote.
The moral of the story is that even misplaced self-righteous indignation can’t prevent the display of proper photo identification if the bearer chooses to show it.
A quick look around the state reveals that, aside from the obnoxious behavior of a few people, the state’s new voter ID law worked fine. In Milwaukee, aside from Kane voting for the wrong candidate, the Milwaukee Election Commission reported few problems with the law, according to Fox 6 news. As for disenfranchising minorities, State Senator Spencer Coggs was the top vote-getter in the primary for city treasurer.
In Sheboygan, where a hotly contested recall election was being held, the Sheboygan Press reports Sheboygan City Clerk Sue Richards was, “thrilled things have gone as well as they have.” Richards had no problems to report despite the higher-than-normal interest in what is normally a very low turnout February primary election.
Even in Madison, where protesters don’t have to show permits when Capitol Police Chief Tubbs is in town, voters remembered to bring their photo ids to the polls. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, of the 18,112 voters yesterday, two of them had to cast provisional ballots. Of course, those two voters still have time to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get free ids that they can use for voting.
In addition to describing the incident with the VA card I noted above, the GAB noted three types of issues that arose on Voter ID’s first day.
- Issues with poll workers being too strict. The Board received a few reports of poll workers comparing the address on the voter’s ID card to the address on the poll list, which is not proper. “The purpose of showing an ID is to prove who you are, not where you live,” said Elections Division Administrator Nathaniel E. Robinson. “Registered voters have already proven residency when they registered.” In one case, a registered voter who went to vote after 7 p.m. was sent home by a poll worker to get a utility bill to prove her residency, even though she has a Wisconsin Driver License but the address did not match the address on the poll list. She emailed the G.A.B. Help Desk, and the staff immediately intervened on her behalf with the local clerk, so the woman was allowed to vote before the polling place closed at 8 p.m.
- Issues with poll workers being too lax. The Board received a few reports of voters who were given a ballot without being asked to show a photo ID or sign the poll list. G.A.B. contacted local clerks to have them correct the situation. In one case, staff learned the problem was isolated, resulting from the poll workers dealing with three voters at one time.
So far, so good. The law is working just fine, and as one poll worker in Sheboygan said, people will get more used to the change in the law with each succeeding election.
Perhaps some of the organizations like Voces De La Frontera and the NAACP should spend less of their time suing to try to stop a successful law and instead spend more of their efforts getting the people they purportedly serve proper identification.
After all, their constituents need photo identification for much more than voting. Whether it’s picking up a prescription to cashing a check, a photo id is a key component of existing in the modern economy.
These groups should be taking advantage of the free ID cards offered by the Department of Motor Vehicles and helping people become a working, fully functioning part of our society.
After the successful roll out of Wisconsin’s new Voter ID law, that’s the biggest concern we are left to address.