Wisconsin voters also elected to office several ultra-conservative Tea Party Republicans including Gov. Scott Walker, and to replace three-term progressive U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, Libertarian businessman and Tea-Party candidate Ron Johnson.
Most of these voting law changes were included in state bill AB-7, the Voter ID bill, which was passed by Wisconsin's Republican-led legislature in May 2011. "Opponents claim the bill will actually disenfranchise thousands of potential voters with its onerous identification provisions, reduction in voting opportunities and confusing requirements," reported ThirdCoastDigest.com.
Other states with major voting law changes in 2011 include Florida, Ohio, Kansas and Texas.
Wisconsin Voting Law Changes in 2011
Increase of Residency Requirement
For state elections, the residency requirement for voter eligibility was extended from ten days to 28 days. The main impact of this change is expected to be exclusion of thousand of college students from voting.
The University of Wisconsin, one of many college and universities in the Badger State, currently boasts 182,000 enrolled students. College students generally tend to vote Democratic rather than Republicans.
Decrease of Period to Cast Absentee Ballots
Starting in 2012, AB-7 cuts the time period allowed for absentee ballots to be cast from 30 days before elections to 14 days. In Wisconsin, absentee ballots must be cast in person in front of the specified municipal clerk. Under AB-7, absentee ballots must also now be cast no later than Friday before any election.
A high percentage of absentee ballots are cast by working Americans... teachers, nurses, fire fighters, police officers... who find it difficult to vote on Tuesdays. In Wisconsin, a solid percentage of working Americans are represented by labor unions, whose members lean Democratic.
New Requirement for Photo ID
Starting in 2012, all Wisconsin voters must present a photo ID issued by a narrow list of issuers.
"...for those who are already registered, vote at the polls and have a license, there will be little change other than being required to show the card each time they vote. But for others -- such as students or others who don’t drive and those who vote absentee -- there will be obstacles. The photo ID is not generally required of nursing home residents or the homebound who have already been voting absentee," explains the Hudson Star-Observer.
Acceptable photo ID for voting eligibility in Wisconsin includes:
- an unexpired Wisconsin driver's license
- an unexpired photo ID issued by the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles
- an unexpired U.S. passport
- an unexpired ID issued by a federally recognized Indian tribe
- an unexpired ID issued by an Wisconsin-accredited college or university
Photo IDs are issued free-of-charge by the Wisconsin DMV. However, "Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) said the requirement directing the DMV to issue the IDs hurts people of all economic and racial stripes.
"Not all counties have DMV service centers: Buffalo County has none, Pierce County’s is only open during typical working hours on Thursdays and Fridays and Price County only has hours on the first Wednesday of every other month and 2nd and 5th Thursdays monthly," per ThirdCoastDigest.com.
Another obstacle to obtaining a Wisconsin DMV-issued photo ID is the onerous requirements, which include all of the following:
- a certified birth certificate or other acceptable proof of name and birth
- proof of identity, which is generally a signed document
- proof of Wisconsin residency
- proof of U.S. citizenship
- a Social Security card
Sen. Jauch elaborated, "Jim Crow, move over, Wisconsin Republicans have taken your place. I’m not saying you’re racists. Intolerant, unsympathetic, restrictive; those are a few words. This bill perpetuates injustice and deprives people of their rights."