UW Study Documents Problems with Voter ID
A recent (September 25, 2017) study by the University of Wisconsin indicates that 16,801 (11.2%) people were deterred from voting by Wisconsin’s Voter ID law and 9,001(6%) people were prevented from voting in the 2016 presidential election. The study also found that low income and minority voters were disproportionately affected with 21.1% of low-income voters deterred vs. 7.2% of higher income voters. Only 8.3% of white registered voters were deterred compared to 27.5% of African Americans.
“Deterred” from voting is defined as (they) “lack qualifying ID or mention ID as a reason for not voting.” “Prevented” means that “they lack qualifying ID or list voter ID as their primary reason for not voting.”
The study was conducted by mailing a survey to 2,400 nonvoting registered voters in Milwaukee and Dane County with a total of 293 (12.2%) surveys returned. The survey was funded by the Office of the Dane County Clerk, so no questions were asked about political party or who they voted for.
People responding to the survey were asked about gender, race, income and exposure to Voter ID information. They were also asked to respond to reasons for not voting such as, unhappy with choice of candidates, vote would not have mattered, transportation problems, did not have photo ID, told at polling place that ID was inadequate, couldn’t get absentee ballot, and problems with early voting.
This study adds to other studies and significant anecdotal evidence that Voter ID in Wisconsin is a barrier to eligible, legal voting. In April 2016, I reviewed internet stories about people who had problems being able to vote because of Wisconsin’s Photo ID law and was able to easily find four stories of such people. So, I did an internet search of “voter fraud in Wisconsin” and while I found very few examples of fraud, I did find some interesting things. The one actual example I found was from a 2014 story about a man who had voted twice for Alberta Darling in her 2011 recall, and five times for Scott Walker in his 2012 recall.
The Wisconsin Election Commission website states that its staff had surveyed prosecuting attorney offices after the 2008 General and Presidential election that revealed a total of six criminal complaints alleging voter fraud (quite a few less statewide than the UW study found in two counties). And I found a 2017 Chicago Tribune story about 60 17-year olds voting illegally in Wisconsin’s 2016 presidential primary. The prosecutor in the county with the largest number of such voters (Kewaunee) chose not to charge any of the 17-year olds because he said they honestly had thought that they could vote if they turned 18 before the general election in November.
Another article quoted Judge James Peterson of the U.S. District Court in Madison who struck down parts of Wisconsin’s Voter ID law saying that there is “utterly no evidence” that in-person voter impersonation fraud is an issue in Wisconsin. He also wrote in his ruling, “To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID is a cure worse than the disease.” But Governor Scott Walker says the number of fraud cases is beside the point. “All it takes is one person whose vote is cancelled by someone not voting legally and that’s a problem” he said.
I would ask, conversely, does he not think it is a problem if one person (or thousands) who is eligible to vote is prevented from voting? To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Walker (and legislators) tear down this invisible (but effective) wall that keeps thousands of eligible voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote.”
Tom Frazier is a member of the Common Cause in Wisconsin State Governing Board, and was the executive director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups from 1983 to 2010.