Starting next year, people who vote in Wisconsin will have to show an ID to prove they are who they say they are. Under the legislation, the Department of Transportation is supposed to give out free photo IDs to people who, for example, don’t have driver’s licenses, the most common form of photo ID.
But, the Department of Transportation in Wisconsin has told employees not to give out the free IDs unless people specifically ask that the fee be waived. If you were to, say, ask “for a photo ID so I can vote,” you’re charged $28 because you didn’t use the magic words.
In effect, that would mean they’re being required to pay $28 to vote.
Today, a mail room employee in the state’s Department of Safety and Professional Services was fired because he sent an e-mail to his colleagues imploring them to tell everyone they know how to get a free ID, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Do you know someone who votes that does not have a State ID that meets requirements to vote? Tell them they can go to the DMV/DOT and get a free ID card. However they must ask for the free ID. a memo was sent out by the 3rd in command of the DMV/DOT. The memo specifically told the employees at the DMV/DOT not to inform individuals that the ID’s are free. So if the individuals seeking to get the free ID does not ask for a free ID, they will have to pay for it!!
“Just wanted everyone to be informed!! REMEMBER TO TELL ANYONE YOU KNOW!! ANYONE!! EVEN IF THEY DON’T NEED THE FREE ID, THEY MAY KNOW SOMEONE THAT DOES!! SO TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!”
Chris Larsen told his story this morning on a Madison radio station (hear interview here).
“They asked me why I sent it?” Larsen told the radio station. “I said, ‘because I want them to be informed,’ and they said, ‘that’s unacceptable.'”
Why would the Department of Transportation do such a thing? Because that’s what the law says, though it’s had little attention until now. Here’s how it reads:
The bill also permits an elector who is eligible to obtain a Wisconsin identification card to obtain the card from DOT free of charge, if the elector specifically requests not to be charged.
A UW-Milwaukee 2005 study found that minorities disproportionately comprise the number of voters without licenses. Only 26 percent of African-Americans and 34 percent of Hispanics have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license.
The League of Women Voters is trying to raise money to sue over the law.
In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a voter ID bill earlier this year.