Wisconsin Photo ID Law Leads to Long Lines

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Susan Lehman, (212) 998-6318
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, (212) 998-6289 or (646) 265-7721

Wisconsin Photo ID Law Leads to Long Lines

Confusion over Wisconsin’s strict new photo ID law contributed to hour-long lines and other challenges for voters in yesterday’s primary, according to widespread media reports.

Multiple media outlets reported long waits, particularly in student precincts in areas like Eau Claire, Madison, and Milwaukee. One Green Bay election official attributed the long lines and bottlenecks to the Badger State’s strict photo ID law, saying it “just plain slows things down.” The new requirement made voting a multi-step process for some voters, who waited in one line to register, another to get a form of ID acceptable under the law, and finally another line to cast a ballot.

In an interview with a local Milwaukee TV station, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Campbellsport) said the photo ID law would help the GOP presidential nominee win Wisconsin in the fall. “Now we have photo ID,” he said, “and I think photo ID is gonna make a little bit of a difference as well.”

Wisconsin is one of 17 states with new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election in 2016.

Voting rights experts from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law — including Michael Waldman, author of The Fight to Vote— are available to discuss the implications of long lines in Wisconsin and how these restrictions could impact voters in the fall.

“As yesterday showed, Wisconsin’s strict photo ID law does nothing but create a hassle and confusion at the polls,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Primaries have much lower turnout, so yesterday was just a preview. In what will likely be a high-turnout election year, we could see these lines multiply come November. Election officials and lawmakers must do everything they can to prepare for Election Day and ensure every voter can cast a ballot that counts.”

At Marquette University, the last voter exited nearly two hours after the polls were closed. 

“It seems like the state legislature doesn’t want a bunch of students voting,” Jessica Franco-Morales, a junior at University of Wisconsin – Madison, told ThinkProgress. “[The lawmakers] could have changed the law to make our student IDs compatible, but they didn’t. Their attack on certain populations seems pretty blatant.” Other students called the waits “frustrating.”

Contributing to confusion is a lack of education around the requirements, which has not received formal funding due to hold ups in the Republican-controlled legislature, ProPublica reported.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.

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