Now in its second week, the first trial challenging the voter ID law in the state of Wisconsin highlights what appears to be a growing trend across the nation to hamper the voting process. The federal lawsuit, brought by civil rights group Advancement Project with co-counsel Arnold & Porter, brings to light the restrictive nature of the state’s law. According to accounts from witnesses, the law is discriminatory and will have an impact on people of color, the elderly, and also the poor.
Several witnesses took the stand last week railing against the ID law. One woman in particular, 93-year-old Lorene Hutchins, testified from her wheelchair and delivered an eloquent rebuke regarding the law:
I feel there is a strategy to keep minorities and older people from voting. Most of us who migrated to Northern states do not have birth certificates, a prerequisite for obtaining the photo ID required to vote. I’ve been voting since the 1940s when I voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It would be devastating to lose the right to vote now, after all these years.
Ms. Hutchins was born in Mississippi during a time when Black patients were not accepted at hospitals. She was born at home in Lee County like many others and did not receive a birth certificate. Her daughter, Katherine Clark, reportedly worked feverishly for many years to obtain birth certificates for her and her mother and finally was successful.
“If it had not been for my daughter Katherine who had the time and money to fight to get me a birth certificate, I would have been barred from voting,” Ms. Hutchins said.
Many of the Advancement Project/Arnold & Porter witnesses migrated from the South to Wisconsin — all with the common thread of not having means to obtain birth certificates. Without that document, these individuals will not be able to obtain voter IDs and thus will be barred from participating in the voting process.
“As the leading democracy in the world, elected officials should work to ensure elections are free, fair, and accessible to all people,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda Hair. “The states that are passing restrictions on voting are not trying to stop fraud; they’re trying to stop certain communities — namely seniors, students and people of color — from voting.”
As Ms. Hair noted, proponents of voter ID laws claim the law is meant to curb voter fraud; however, there has been a nearly nonexistent amount of fraud taking place in Wisconsin and nationwide.
Leading up to the 2012 general election, several states implemented several policies that appeared to rig the system. Cuts to early voting, voter roll purges, challenges at the polls, and other such maneuvers revealed what appeared to be an insidious plot to upend the democratic process.
The ACLU is also challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law. The trial is expected to conclude on Friday.