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WI Disability Community: Voter ID Bill Needs Work

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Monday, December 27, 2010   

MADISON, Wis. - Incoming Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said a Voter I.D. act will be the first bill introduced in the 2011 legislative session. The bill, as it stands, would require photo identification in order for a person to cast a vote.

That requirement could present challenges to people with disabilities, warns Alicia Boehme with Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW).

"Where a photo I.D. law becomes problematic is when it becomes a barrier for individuals with disabilities to be able to get out and vote."

Supporters of the photo I.D. bill cite an August Rusmussen poll showing that 82 percent of Americans support having photo I.D. at the polls.

About 600,000 people with disabilities of voting age live in Wisconsin. DRW recently completed a survey of Wisconsin's disability community. Boehme says it shows these people have concerns about voter fraud, too.

"However, we found that the majority of all respondents, about 51 percent, support a less restrictive version of the bill that would allow voters to show various forms of identification other than photo identification."

Boehme says many people with disabilities change addresses frequently, and many people in institutions may not even have access to their birth certificate. Other states that have adopted voter fraud laws have made provisions to accommodate people with disabilities who want to exercise their right to vote, she adds.

Boehme points out that for the homeless, and for those who live in an institution or who are confined to their home because of their disability, obtaining photo I.D. is very challenging.

"It is much harder for those individuals to get out and get a photo identification card. We want to work with legislators to try and ensure that the bill takes that into account."

Boehme says alternative solutions could be adapted, such as stricter penalties for voter fraud and accepting alternate forms of I.D. documentation and proof of residence.


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