Two of Wisconsin’s GOP lawmakers are pushing a measure that would would prohibit local governments from issuing or funding photo identification cards.
Critics of the measure say that it is a response to a developing program in Milwaukee that would fund the issuance of a photo ID for residents to use when seeking health care, obtaining library cards, and setting up bank accounts, according to the the Journal Sentinel. The purpose of that program is to ensure accessibility for those who traditionally have a hard time obtaining identification, including the homeless, undocumented immigrants, runaway youth, domestic violence victims, and transgender people.
The local IDs that would be issued by Milwaukee’s program were never meant to be used as voter IDs, as they would not meet the voter identification requirements passed by Republicans in the 2011 voter ID law.
The bill’s sponsors said in a memo seeking bill co-sponsors that local IDs would be “potentially misleading, confusing, and unfair to the card’s recipient,” adding that their purpose is to prevent fraud.
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“Preventing fraud and abuse in voting and state government programs has been a priority for this Legislature,” the memo reads. “Creating another government photo identification card that people may believe qualifies them for benefits is potentially misleading, confusing, and unfair to the card’s recipient, and unnecessary.”
Republican legislators nationwide have used claims of widespread voter fraud as reason to push through voter ID laws that disproportionately impact low-income voters and people of color. Similar voter ID laws have been linked to falling voter turnout among people of color. Allegations of voter fraud “simply do not pan out,” and voter impersonation is “more rare than getting struck by lightning,”according to a study published by the Brennan Center For Justice.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law is one of the strictest in the nation, requiring prospective voters to show a current or recently expired Wisconsin driver’s license or a similar identification, such as a military ID, a United States. passport, a tribal ID, a recent naturalization certificate in order to vote. The ID cards in the Milwaukee program are instead designed for everyday use and to help people obtaining health services and prescriptions, opening a bank account, and showing proof of residency for libraries and museums.
Milwaukee County’s 2016 budget includes an amendment for the local IDs. As per the amendment, the county would set aside $150,000 in a special county contingency account while a joint county-city task force develops the ID program. The city would be expected to match the county’s contribution, according to the amendment.
The GOP bill would require any local ID cards to state clearly that the card isn’t authorized for voting purposes.
“While it’s regrettable that Republicans deny marginalized people food and health care, they also know that Milwaukee IDs will not prove eligibility for safety net programs either—don’t worry, they’ll still be hungry,” Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of immigrant advocacy group Voces de la Frontera, told the Journal Sentinel. “The Milwaukee ID program is a great example of a local government responding to grass-roots voices and stepping in to provide basic services to constituents when the state and federal government have failed to do so.”