By Brian E. Fraley and Michael Tate, for   Published Feb 15, 2005 at 5:09 AM

{image1} In this week's WisPolitics column, Brian E. Fraley defends the photo ID requirement at the polls saying it reduces fraud and incompetence. Michael Tate disagrees, saying the ID requirement adds an unnecessary burden to voting.

Pros: Brian E. Fraley

"I don't think we have seen any evidence of fraud."
-- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

OK, Mayor Barrett, I can play along. For the sake of argument, let's give Connie Millstein, Humphrey Pushcart, Supreme Solar Allah, Michael Pratt, ACT Wisconsin and Lisa Artison the benefit of the doubt and say there has never been voter fraud in Milwaukee or anywhere in Wisconsin. Not once. No conspiracy. No plot. Not even a lone misguided activist acting on his or her own.

Let's just assume the mess we've witnessed in recent years in Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and elsewhere is mere incompetence on a gargantuan level, sprinkled in with some honest mistakes by well-intentioned, competent individuals. A voter ID requirement, properly administered throughout the state, would at the least restore some minimal level of confidence in the system and correct most bureaucratic bumbling before invalid ballots are counted.

For that reason alone, the requirement to show your (free) photo identification before you receive a ballot has merit.

You see, while the further prevention of voter fraud is a significant reason to require voters to show identification, it isn't the main reason for the requirement.

The overriding reason to require would-be voters to prove they are who they say they are is to preserve the integrity of that individual ballot and to maintain the value of every other vote cast in that same election across Wisconsin.

I have to prove who I say I am when I buy a Miller Lite for crying out loud. It is not outlandish to make me do the same before I cast a vote for someone I want to run my government.

I will grant the requirements' opponents assertion that having to show a photo ID is an inconvenience. I will further grant them the possibility that there will be some individuals who may resist going to vote because of such an obligation.


The voter ID requirement will not disenfranchise anyone -- unless they themselves allow it to.

When I was in high school, my parents informed me that I could get my drivers' license only if I would pay for their subsequent increase in insurance premiums. That sobering fact, coupled with my need to save up to pay my way through college, left a lot of my friends reluctantly carting me around until my 20s.

However, my determination to do two things moved me to wait in line at the DMV to obtain a state-issued identification card. I wanted to visit the polling places every other year and eventually visit the taverns surrounding UW-Madison every other week (OK, fine, every other day).

It was a pain. And when I moved (as students often do) after filling out that little postcard to have my mail forwarded, I also changed my address with the DMV. It involved bus rides and waiting in line, but I survived.

Out of laziness, I missed a few elections along the way. Was I disenfranchised because state law required the polls be closed at 8 p.m. and I didn't feel like leaving the futon until 9? Nope. It was my choice to choose comfort over responsibility.

Between the rise of computers and the fear of identity theft, if you choose not to have photo identification, frankly you're not going to be able to do much in society, so voting may be the least of your worries (try picking up a prescription or signing for a package at the post office without ID).

This requirement doesn't target poor, minority or urban voters. It targets inefficiencies in a system wherever they may arise -- be they Milwaukee or Manitowoc. Moreover, it protects the value of every vote, regardless of by whom it was cast.

Arguments to contrary are partisan and flawed.

Fraley, a former Republican legislative and campaign aide and insurance industry representative, is a principal with The Markesan Group, a national business and political consulting firm located in Milwaukee.

Cons: Michael Tate

America recently watched as Iraqi citizens braved long lines and threats of terrorism to cast their ballots for the first time in a free Iraq. Regardless of partisan affiliation, Americans applauded the courage shown by so many Iraqis and took pride in this display of democracy. Sadly, while many Iraqis were investing in democracy, Republicans in Wisconsin's Legislature were drafting a bill to deny this very right to tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents.

Wisconsin has a long, proud history of voter participation and civic involvement. In November, not only did voter turnout exceed 70 percent, but for the second presidential election in a row turnout among college students was among the highest in the nation. Our leaders should acknowledge this as a fantastic example of participatory democracy. Instead, legislative Republicans are demanding further restrictions on voters' rights.

Despite the high voter turnout, there are clearly some problems with the Wisconsin electoral system. Long lines, understaffed clerks' offices, and poorly trained poll workers are all examples of administrative flaws within our system. The high voter turnout exacerbated an already overwhelmed election system in many municipalities across the state. The Legislature should be spending its time working to provide municipalities with more training and funding for election workers. Lawmakers should work to ensure that there are enough voting machines and a proper amount of trained poll workers at every polling location -- especially in the high-performing wards that have a history of congestion and confusion. We must remember that despite the Republican-driven allegations, there hasn't been a single documented case of voter fraud this cycle -- just examples of sloppy bookkeeping and rushed work by overextended poll workers.

The Republicans have decided the way to cut down on these errors isn't to ensure more training or additional poll workers but to instead reduce the number of citizens who will be able to vote. Requiring photo identification may sound like a reasonable requirement to many citizens. However, the reality is that for thousands of Wisconsin residents, it would impose an extra, often insurmountable, burden that deny the vote to many citizens whose voices desperately need to be heard. A photo identification requirement would make it much harder for students, senior citizens and the disabled to vote. With students concerned about the rising cost of tuition, seniors with the soaring cost of prescription drugs, and the disabled community's reliance upon many government programs, their vote is needed to affect crucial public policy decisions by elected officials.

My grandmother is 87 and doesn't drive anymore. She moved a few years ago to be closer to family. She reads the newspaper daily, discusses current events with her friends, and counts the days to Election Day when she exercises her civic duty. This law would directly impact her. She does not have a current ID and getting one would be an extreme hardship. Similarly, why should a disabled veteran without the ability to get an ID be denied the right to vote?

The reason I believe many Republicans are behind this push for photo identification is purely partisan. They know this bill will prevent large blocks of Democratic voters from going to the polls. Young people and seniors voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry last November, and if they voted in a much smaller quantity it is likely George W. Bush would have carried the state.

This is partisanship at its worst. Voting in America has moved beyond poll taxes, literacy tests and Jim Crow laws. Most states are moving in the direction of more open election systems and look to Wisconsin as a model. Wisconsin should continue to invest in making voting easier. We are a model of electoral participation and engagement.

Requiring a photo ID presents an obstruction to many voters and is not the answer to the administrative problems we saw last November. Our leaders should be searching for new and innovative ways to make it easier for people to vote and harder for people to cheat. Requiring voter IDs fails on both accounts.

Tate is the former director of the Wisconsin Dean campaign and deputy director of the Democratic-leaning group ACT, which organized pro-Kerry turnout in Milwaukee and other major Wisconsin voting areas.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

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