Voter ID Law Divides Legislative Candidates
Candidates seeking election to state offices representing parts of Greendale, Greenfield, Waukesha and Muskego sparred on issues, including the blocked Voter ID bill, at a candidates forum Thursday.
The Democrats said mass voter fraud is a myth, while Republicans argued that voter fraud exists, but is nearly untraceable.
The topic of the state's voter ID law ignited passion from area state Senate and Assembly candidates, as well as audience members, at a forum held Thursday in Greenfield that was sponsored by Patch and the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County.
“The reason I proposed it is because I think voting is the most precious right we have as citizens of democracy,” said State Rep. Jeff Stone, who authored the voter ID bill and running for re-election in the 82nd Assembly District, which includes Greendale and Greenfield.
State lawmakers passed a bill requiring voters to show IDs before they cast their ballots, but two Dane County judges struck down the law and it will not be in effect for Tuesday's election.
Mass Voter Fraud a Myth?
Democrat Kathleen Weid-Vincent, who is running against Stone, said there has not been a study that shows widespread voter fraud.
Jim Ward, who is running for the 28th District Senate seat against incumbent Mary Lazich, agreed with Weid-Vincent. He said mass voter fraud is a myth and that there is a rate less than 1 percent of voter fraud.
Stone noted four individuals who have been in court for voter fraud.
“It started because there was a hearing in Milwaukee by a woman who was a new citizen and testified that when she went to go vote somebody had already voted in her name,” Stone said.
Lazich said the reason incidents of reported voter fraud are low is because it's difficult to track once it happens. She also noted that residents overwhelmingly favor the law.
"We are responsive to our people because 70 percent of Wisconsinites want voter ID,” Lazich said. “That’s something elected officials have a responsibility to be responsive to.“
Does Law Suppress the Vote?
Democratic candidates said those who commit voter fraud should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, they expressed concern that it was really an attempt to suppress the vote, particularly among senior citizens.
“In 2005, there was UWM study that over 177,000 seniors are without a Wisconsin drivers license or a state ID,” Ward said. “These are people who have voted their entire lives…we’re going to make them get in the bus or find transportation from a nursing home… and make them pay for a drivers license when they don’t even drive anymore.”
Lazich said the law was written compatible to Indiana’s Voter ID, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The U.S. Supreme Court said photo ID for voting is no way an undue burden on voting rights,” added Stone, who spent more than a decade working on the legislation.
83rd Assembly District Candidates Weigh In
The candidates of the 83rd Assembly District, which includes Muskego and Waukesha, voiced similar thoughts to their parties.
Republican state Rep. David Craig accused the those who took the law to court of delaying a law that has already been declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We know that voter fraud exists,” Craig said. “Why don’t we want to protect a franchise that so many people, so many veterans died to protect? It’s a common sense piece of legislation.”
His Democratic opponent, Jim Brownlow, called the bill unconstitutional and a form of voter suppression.
“This bill was created in the minds of the Koch brothers,” Brownlow said. “There are thousands of people in Wisconsin who would not be eligible to vote if the law were upheld.”