High Turnout in Wisconsin, But Long Lines and ID Requirements Hamper Voters
Controversial voter ID law put to test as Sanders campaign hopes for decisive victory in key state
Voter turnout is reportedly high in Wisconsin on Tuesday as both major parties held their primaries in the key state. However, with a new and controversial voter ID law now in effect requiring that people come to the polls with a photo ID that includes their signature—such as a Wisconsin driver's license, U.S. passport or military ID—reports of long lines and confusion appeared to be a significant impediment for many voters.
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As Common Dreams reported earlier, while it's unclear whether the law will hurt Bernie Sanders' chances more or less than Hillary Clinton's, it is likely to impact Democratic voters—particularly college students, minority voters, and the elderly—more than Republican voters.
According to the Capital Times in Madison:
UW-Madison senior Dylan Edwards was turned away from his Downtown polling place Tuesday morning because he only had a driver's license from his native Pennsylvania.
Like thousands of UW-Madison students, Edwards needed to get one of the university's separate voting ID cards Tuesday morning. It took him about five minutes to wait in line and get a voting ID at an office in the Gordon Dining and Events Center two blocks from his polling place.
"It's a little frustrating," Edwards said of the process, before heading back to his polling place for a second attempt.
And as MSNBC political correspondent Jacob Soboroff reported from a polling station in Green Bay, the ID requirements were creating long delays at some polling stations:
— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) April 5, 2016
Polls close at 8:00 PM CT and with results up in the air, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel is providing live updates from the ground here. Or follow the action on Twitter with the hashtag #WIPrimary.
Bernie Sanders is leading the Wisconsin presidential primary polls, but some say the state's convoluted voter ID law—courtesy of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who ended his own failed bid for presidency last September—could hamper the Vermont senator's chances.
The law, which Walker signed in 2011 and is now being implemented following a series of court battles, requires that voters present state-issued photo IDs at the polls, a stipulation that disproportionately impacts college students who may not have Wisconsin drivers' licenses.
A federal court in 2014 found that about 300,000 registered voters in the state lack the required identification.
As Campaign for America's future blogger Dave Johnson points out, the law also targets elderly people and minorities—who have historically supported Sanders' rival, Hillary Clinton—but overall, it is Democratic voters who have to worry. He writes:
In previous primaries, more younger voters have voted for Sanders than Clinton by large margins. These voters will face serious disenfranchisement. However older voters have voted for Clinton by large margins, and they also face disenfranchisement. People of color, another demographic facing Wisconsin disenfranchisement, have voted for Clinton or Sanders depending more on region and ancestry, with southern and older African Americans voting for Clinton by very large margins, while Asian-Pacific and younger African Americans have tended to vote more for Sanders.
Sanders, whose support base relies heavily on young voters, said he sees the laws as tantamount to voter suppression.
"I think what Gov. Walker and what other Republican governors and legislators are doing is not only shameful, it's un-American in the deepest sense of the word," he said during a Sunday night rally in Janesville.
"Trying to figure out ways, 'Gee, senior citizens may vote against me, how do I make it harder for them to participate? Young people may vote against me, how do I make sure that many of them will not vote?'" he said. "So, I say to Gov. Walker, and I say to Republican governors all over the country, if you are afraid to participate in free, fair and open elections, get out of politics. Get another job."
Marcos Arroyo, a college student who also spoke at the rally before Sanders, told the Daily Beast on Monday that the voter ID law is a "concern of mine, and a concern of the campaign." He added that many students, particularly those who are from outside of the state, are unaware of the restrictions.
"It just gets difficult," he said. "And a large portion of them are not aware of the change."
Chris Larson, a Democratic state senator, said that the law could prevent up to one-tenth of college students from voting.
"Do they know the specific IDs that they need?" Larson asked. "Are they going to go through the trouble to figure that out? If there's a hiccup are they going to go march home, get it, come back?"
As the legal nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice explained in a blog post on Tuesday, Wisconsin's voting rights problems do not end with its identification requirements.
In addition to that law, Wisconsin is also the "poster child" for dark money in elections, writes the Center's Rebecca Autrey. Walker signed laws last year allowing individuals to donate anonymously to outside groups and for campaigns to coordinate with those groups on certain political ads. "That means when Wisconsinites go to the polls tomorrow, it will be harder than ever to know who is trying to influence their votes," Autrey writes.