By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The League of Women Voters sued Thursday to block Wisconsin’s new voter photo identification law, arguing that the state constitution clearly only bars children, felons and the mentally incompetent from voting, not people who lack photo IDs.
In its lawsuit filed in Dane County Circuit Court, the League’s state chapter contends that Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led Legislature had no authority to bar a class of people — those who don’t have an appropriate photo ID — from voting.
The lawsuit names members of the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees state elections, and Walker as defendants. GAB spokesman Reid Magney said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment. The governor issued a statement saying photo identification protects election integrity.
“We require it to get a library card, cold medicine, and public assistance. I will continue to implement common sense reforms that protect the electoral process and increase citizens’ confidence in the results of our elections,” Walker said.
Melanie G. Ramey, president of the league’s Wisconsin chapter, countered by saying requiring photo identification at the polls doesn’t compare to using it to cash a check.
“Those transactions are generally based on personal business decisions by companies or other entities,” she said in a statement. “They are not rights of citizenship.”
Republicans who control the state Legislature passed a law earlier this year that requires voters to produce photo identification at the polls beginning with this February’s election. A driver’s license, U.S. passport, a student ID that expires within two years, a state-issued ID card or a military ID will qualify.
Republicans at the state and national level argue that requiring voters to show photo identification will stop people from voting under a false identity.
But opponents, including most Democrats, point out that cases of such fraud have been extremely rare, and they say the new laws amount to a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
They argue that blacks, Hispanics, senior citizens, people with disabilities and the poor are more likely to lack the required photo ID. But they also contend others could be disenfranchised: voters who fail to bring ID with them; students whose school IDs are deemed unacceptable; people whose drivers’ licenses have expired; women whose driver’s licenses do not reflect their married names or new addresses.
The lawsuit notes many Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicle offices have limited hours. Although people can get state ID cards for free, state policy prohibits DMV workers from informing them the $28 fee can be waived, the lawsuit said. What’s more, obtaining supporting documents for an ID, such as birth certificates, presents its own bureaucratic hurdles and fees. A report the league released earlier this month found a dry run at asking for photo ID from voters during legislative recall elections in August contributed to long lines and confusion.