Wisconsin to move two of its West Side DMV locations to new office (copy)

The state's Division of Motor Vehicles office on Odana Road, along with an office near Hilldale, will close and move to a new west side location unless the U.S. DOT overturns the state's action in response to a complaint by the city of Madison. 

It's bad enough that Wisconsin Republicans have gone out of their way to make it harder for many Wisconsin citizens to exercise their civic duty to vote with an onerous voter ID law — now state government is making it even harder to get those IDs in the first place.

Depending on your suspicion level, either the State Department of Motor Vehicles is involved in a cynical game of frustrating potential voters or it's just tone deaf when it comes to understanding how its actions can adversely affect folks at the lower end of the economic scale.

Whatever. As The Capital Times' Abigail Becker reported recently, the state's decision to close, combine and relocate two DMV service centers to Madison's far west side has the potential of adversely affecting communities of color and the disabled, the very people who already struggle with the unconscionable voter ID law.

That's because the new combined site at 8417 Excelsior Drive is across the far-west Highway 12/14 beltline and is ill-served by public transportation. Not only does a bus ride from the predominantly nonwhite south side of Madison take more than an hour to get to the new site, the bus stop is a third of a mile away from the DMV, meaning a long walk that can be particularly troublesome for people with disabilities.

The two existing DMV sites at Hill Farms and Odana Road are on regular bus routes that are not only closer to minority neighborhoods, but are located across the street from bus stops. This also makes it less of a hassle to take drivers tests, obtain license plates and deal with other DOT paperwork.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation isn't going to get its way without a fight, fortunately. Several Madison officials and the League of Women Voters are urging the DOT to reconsider. The city itself has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, urging it to overturn the state's action. The U.S. DOT has leverage because it funds some state DOT services and has vetoed similar attempts to close service sites in other states.

That Wisconsin is one of several Republican-controlled states to enact voter ID requirements to reduce voting by constituencies that typically favor Democrats is in itself an outrage.

The state DOT, no matter how innocently, shouldn't get by with making it even worse.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. Zweifel is the co-author, along with John Nichols, of the new book "The Capital Times: A Proudly Radical Newspaper's Century Long Fight for Justice and Peace," published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. It's available on the Historical Society website, and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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