Following a county-funded study on the effects of Wisconsin's Voter ID law, the Dane County Board of Supervisors is considering a resolution that would call on Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature to suspend the law.
The $55,000 study conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Ken Mayer found that 11.2 percent of eligible non-voting registrants in Dane and Milwaukee counties, or nearly 17,000 registered voters, were deterred from voting in November because of photo ID requirements.
“Part of a functioning democracy is to ensure all eligible voters have access to the ballot box and don’t stay home because of confusing laws,” Supervisor Robin Schmidt, District 24, said. “The Legislature needs to take action to promote election integrity, transparency and democracy.”
The resolution would call on state leaders to suspend the law until changes can be made. Those changes could include adding an affidavit process that allows voters lacking a legal ID to cast a ballot, simplifying the process of getting acceptable IDs and funding a voter education effort.
Schmidt is proposing to add voter education funds to the county clerk’s office as part of the 2018 budget.
Ahead of the election, Mayer conducted a mail and telephone survey of registered voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties who voted in 2012 but not in 2016 and found widespread confusion over the photo ID law.
Mayer said some respondents stayed home over ID concerns even though they had legitimate identification because they were confused by what was required.
The study also found low-income and minority voters were disproportionately affected the voter ID law. About 8 percent of white registrants who did not vote said they were deterred by the law compared to 27.5 percent of registered African American voters.
“The main conclusion is that thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of otherwise eligible people were deterred from voting by the ID law,” Mayer said. “An eligible voter who cannot vote because of the ID law is disenfranchised and that in itself is a serious harm to the integrity to the electoral process.”
At the end of September, Republican State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk called on the Legislature to penalize Dane County for funding the study.