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Our view: We don’t need Voter Exclusionary Act

EDITORIAL

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There’s no such thing as a truth-in-labeling law for Wisconsin legislators, but maybe we need one. We’ve heard for years about the need for a Voter ID law in our state, and it appears that legislation is gaining momentum under the Walker administration.

Supporters say that voters should present a valid photo identification card, such as a driver license or military ID card, at the polls to reduce voter fraud in Wisconsin.

But let’s give the legislation an honest name: It’s truly a Voter Exclusionary Act.

The goal isn’t to prevent fraud and abuse. There’s hardly any of that to prevent.

Truth is, the people in power like being in power — and they really want to make it difficult for those who may oppose them to vote them out of office.

The League of Women Voters highlights the election of November 2004: Three million votes cast in Wisconsin and only 18 cases of illegal voting.

In most of those cases, felons voted when they didn’t know they had lost that privilege, or people who owned multiple properties tried voting in multiple areas. Having a valid photo ID wouldn’t necessarily prevent that.

A University of Wisconsin professor testified last week about a provision that makes perfect sense: Why not make the photo ID for University of Wisconsin System students valid under the new voting law?

If his idea is added to the legislation, it shows that lawmakers are serious about cutting costs and serious about not limiting the rights of students and others.

If the idea is left by the wayside, it shows that the people behind the measure really don’t want their opponents to exercise their right to vote.

The state already produces tens of thousands of photo IDs for University of Wisconsin students on campuses throughout the state.

So far, the state Senate’s version of the voter ID law would not allow a UW student badge to qualify as a valid photo ID.

The Assembly is still crafting its bill.

UW-Madison political scientist David Canon asked the Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform: “Why duplicate the state’s efforts in terms of having (students) go out and get another free ID at a cost to the state?”

That’s an excellent question — and it goes to the heart of just what the bill is truly trying to accomplish.

Do we want to go to great lengths and expense and delays to prevent illegal voting — if, indeed, that’s possible?

Or, do we want to make voting as difficult as possible for students, for people who move residences, for the elderly or those with disabilities?

There’s clearly a way to make IDs for students at private and technical schools eligible, too.

But we suspect that’s not really the issue.

It seems clear that the people pushing this legislation may claim to have pure motives about curbing fraud.

Instead, it adds needless hassle and cost for people who can afford neither.

We’ve said all along that we think this is a ridiculous political ploy — one that clearly has nothing to do with Wisconsin being open for business.

But as long as political game-playing is the true aim, let’s call the bill what it is — a Voter Exclusionary Act.

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