by Project Vote, Wed Feb 09, 2011 at 08:15:47 PM EST
Since the 2010 midterm elections and the Republican takeover of several state houses, the fight to enact controversial photo voter ID bills has dominated legislative debates that would otherwise be devoted to tacking swelling state deficits. This week alone, Wisconsin, Kansas, Tennessee, Missouri, andMinnesota made headlines for this contentious issue. Now, municipal officials, an election clerk, and voting rights advocates weigh in on what these bills really mean to voters and their states at large.
State policymakers; take notice of what they have to say.
In Wisconsin, there is an apparent movement among municipal council members across the state to denounce the Legislature’s intent to enact a strict photo ID law that can be costly to the state and discriminatory to voters.
Yesterday, the Milwaukee Common Council voted 8-1 to oppose state voter ID legislation, urging the Legislature to expand the list of acceptable forms of ID, among other provisions.
"This is a bad bill, and it will disenfranchise people - a lot of people," Ald. Ashanti Hamilton said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. "For us not to take a position in opposition to it would be irresponsible."
Appleton Ald. Kole Oswald is trying to get municipal leaders across Wisconsin to show state policymakers that they want "no part of a proposal requiring residents to show identification before voting."
"I think this is definitely a city issue because the costs and consequences passed down from Madison will trickle down to us," Oswald said. "The state needs to listen to the clerk's offices from different municipalities and make sure their voices are being heard."
Oswald, who planned to debate his resolution today during the city's Finance and Administration Committee meeting, questions state policy makers’ motives in passing a voter ID law during an economic crisis, according to anAppleton Post Crescent report.
"Their platform was jobs and economic growth and cutting spending," he said. "Where is the public outcry for a photo ID law? Where is the public outcry to end same-day registration? This does not seem to be a citizen-driven process."
Partisan operatives have drilled fear of voter fraud into the public consciousness to gain support for regressive voter ID laws by making voters believe that their votes are overridden by a legion of voter impersonators. However, the Post Crescent reports that out of 2.99 million votes cast in 2008, 20 people were charged with illegal voting in the state and “more than half of the cases involved felons who were ineligible to vote,” two “were people who each voted twice,” and “one of them obtained an absentee ballot in his late wife’s name.”
A photo ID would not have prevented any of these alleged instances of illegal voting.
The voter fraud scare was exploited once again this week by Kansas by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who claims voter fraud is more widespread than he thought. Kobach’s claims even captured the attention of a Harvey County clerk who contradictorily “likes” the law that he supports, but says widespread voter fraud is not an issue in her county.
The clerk, Joyce Truskett says in the five years that she has administered elections, she has found three cases of illegal voting. "Out of 20,000 voters, I'll take that," she said in a recent Newton Kansan report. It was unclear if these cases involved voter impersonation, the only type of illegal voting that a voter ID would prevent.
Kobach claims that there are 59 reports of irregularities involving 221 ballots since 1997, double the amount from a 2008 report. However, Kansas NAACP President Kevin Myles disputes these statistics.
“Even if this is true, it's a very small amount when you take into account that approximately 10 million votes have been cast during that time period,” according to a KWCH-TV report. He adds that of the 221 cases, only two would actually be detected by the proposed measure.
Even though Truskett says there is no issue with fraud, she approves of the bill and claims a voter ID law, which is estimated to cost at least $60,000, will not be difficult to implement for election administrators. But, she warns, “unless our courts are willing to prosecute, it doesn’t do any good. The courts are very busy, and they have lots of other fish to fry."