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Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011

Issue of the Week: Protecting the Right to Vote

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Since the state's inception, Wisconsin's lawmakers have expanded and protected the right to vote. But that all changed this year, when Gov. Scott Walker and his allies in the state Legislature rejected Wisconsin's progressive voting rights history and enacted one of the most restrictive voter ID requirements in the country.

In doing so, the fiercely nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Wisconsin argues in a new lawsuit filed in the Dane County Circuit Court, Walker and his allies violated the state's constitution.

The Wisconsin Constitution allows the Legislature to exclude only two classes of people from voting—felons and people who have been ruled incompetent. Furthermore, the constitution states, the Legislature can only enact voting laws relating to residency, voter registration, absentee voting, excluding felons and incompetent persons, and extending voting rights to additional people.

The constitution does not allow lawmakers to enact a voter ID law, nor does it allow them to exclude people who don't provide a voter ID at the polls.

Therefore, the League argues, the voter ID law violates the Wisconsin Constitution.

The suit rightfully argues that not only does the voter ID law inhibit voting, but that it also inhibits voter registration. In addition, the voter ID law contains a hidden—and illegal—poll tax. Wisconsin residents are able to obtain a no-cost ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles—even though DMV workers have been told not to offer that information to customers—but obtaining supporting documents such as a birth certificate or passport requires money. So, too, does obtaining a replacement ID at the DMV.

The League was right to bring this suit and the Legislature was wrong to pass this law. Voter ID won't prevent people from fraudulently voting twice or impersonating someone else, the problems it's allegedly supposed to solve. But it will prevent some legitimate voters—students, the elderly, and minority and low-income voters—from casting a valid ballot at the polls next year. That's a terribly high price to pay for an unconstitutional, ideologically driven policy.

Heroes of the Week
: Trees of Hope Volunteers

After losing their daughter, Lindsay, to leukemia in November 2010, Karen and Gene Wenzel founded Trees of Hope to raise funds to support local patient services and research. The group hopes to raise $50,000 this year during its Trees of Hope Festival.

Volunteers are busy organizing and preparing for the event, to be held Nov. 18-20 at the Brookfield Suites Hotel (1200 S. Moorland Road). The group will be selling one-of-a-kind Christmas trees, wreaths, holiday gift baskets and silent auction items donated from area businesses and individuals to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The event will also feature pictures with Santa, face-painting, musical performances and a marrow donor drive by the BloodCenter of Wisconsin.

Readers who wish to donate items or volunteer in any capacity are encouraged to email Karen Wenzel at Karen@TreesofHopeWI.org or visit www.treesofhopeWI.org for more information.