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Republican lawmakers push for changes in voting requirements ahead of next year's election

Two proposed changes could impact photo ID and proof of citizenship at a polling place.
Posted at 9:29 AM, Oct 25, 2023

MILWAUKEE — Republican lawmakers in Madison are pushing for changes in voting requirements ahead of next year's election.

Two proposed changes could impact photo ID and proof of citizenship at a polling place. These are two separate bills. One would require proof of citizenship. The other would change the state constitution to require people to bring photo ID to the polls. It's currently law, but not part of the constitution.

Some say seeing these measures brought up is frustrating.

"It's unnecessary and it's a distraction. This legislation seems to be based on the thoughts that our elections are unsafe and that they are prone to being stolen and that's simply untrue,” said Kyle Johnson, Political Director, BLOC.

Organizations like Black Leaders Organizing Communities, known as BLOC, say it works to support communities of color who may feel like their vote doesn't matter.

They do that through neighborhood outreach and education.

“There's always some barriers that are purposely put in place, it feels to suppress our voting rights,” said Javonna Lue, Community Organizer, BLOC.

One of the lead authors of the ID joint resolution is State Senator Van Wanggaard of Racine.

He says the move wouldn't have an impact on local voters because it simply enforces the rule already in place.

“All we're doing is codifying the fact that in order for you to vote you have to produce a valid photo identification of some sort, which we already list in state law already,” said State Sen. Wanggaard, (R) 21st District.

One alternative that was presented during the discussion was adding a label on a state driver's license or ID that would say "not valid for voting purposes," which would look similar to that of the organ donor label.

The League of Women Voters calls the changes unnecessary.

“These might be substantial hurdles to being able to participate in their constitutionally given right to vote,” said Debra Cronmiller, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

Some committee members say this legislation would help prevent illegal voting activity.

Those with BLOC and the League of Women Voters say the move could lead to disenfranchisement for people who want and should be able to exercise their right to vote.

"We want to make sure that every eligible voter has access to the ballot," said Cronmiller.

State Sen. Wanggaard hopes to have the citizenship requirement in place by next April’s election.

The change in the state constitution, with the voter ID bill, would not happen before 2025.