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Stop wasting time, money on Voter ID

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Voter ID Spring Primary

John Kleinmaus of West Bend reviews a voter's drivers license in February 2012 at the West Bend Library. It was the first and only time so far that voters in Wisconsin were required to show a photo ID at the polls.

On and on it goes.

Wisconsin’s tiring court battle over a law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls ran into another roadblock last week.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman rejected the GOP-backed ID requirement, saying it unfairly burdens minorities and the poor, many of whom don’t have easy access to acceptable identification cards.

Republicans noted the judge is a former Democratic state senator, so the decision was unsurprising and flawed, they contended.

Without a doubt, partisan advantage in the looming fall election and beyond is the main motivator on both sides of the political divide.

Yet Adelman’s most compelling point is still one the GOP advocates of voter ID have no answer to: Just what problem does the law solve?

In theory, it’s voter fraud.

But “the evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin,” Adelman wrote in his decision. “The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”

Moreover, who is going to risk a $10,000 fine and three years in prison by impersonating another voter just to give a candidate one extra vote? You’d have to be “insane” to do that, Adelman correctly noted.

The Republican backers of voter ID are right that it shouldn’t be hard for the vast majority of citizens to get a proper ID card. But when it comes to voting, everyone — not just the vast majority — should be allowed to participate if eligible.

Adelman cited testimony from people who could not get IDs because they did not have a birth certificate, could not afford one, or have an erroneous birth certificate. One man testified he uses his veteran’s ID card for banking but cannot use it to vote.

In fact, 9 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin don’t have qualifying ID. That’s about 300,000, which is more than the difference in recent statewide races for governor and U.S. Senate.

Wisconsin should strive to make voting easy and convenient so more citizens participate. By continuing this fight, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and other advocates of voter ID are risking millions of taxpayer dollars for legal costs.

Adelman’s reasonable ruling should stand.

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