MADISON, Wis., Oct. 4 (UPI) — A federal judge has ordered the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles to investigate undercover recordings that show DMV workers giving misinformation to a prospective voter who was seeking a photo ID to vote.
Under the state’s strict new voter identification law, all voters must present a state-issued photo identification at the polls, or attach a copy of one to an early voting ballot. State and federal courts have ruled the state must make the photo IDs readily available in no more than six days of an individual’s application.
In undercover recordings made by a volunteer for the group VoteRiders and published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, DMV employees at 11 locations were shown giving out incorrect information to a woman who said her friend needed to get a voter ID, but did not have a birth certificate. Several of the workers told the woman the ID might not be ready in time for Election Day despite the court order – and pledges from state officials to abide by it.
In other instances, workers told the woman her friend would need to buy a copy of her birth certificate. The voter IDs do not require a copy of a birth certificate if an individual does not have one and courts have ruled that at no point in the process can the state require voters to pay money to obtain the voter ID, including paying for supporting documentation. Doing so would be the equivalent to charging an unconstitutional poll tax, according to a federal court ruling.
Wisconsin Attorney General Mark Schimel said in court filings the DMV has trained all employees on the procedure for individuals seeking a voter ID, though Molly McGrath, the national campaign coordinator for VoteRiders said front-line evidence shows that is no the case.
“It seems like we’re in two parallel realities,” McGrath said.
After the first undercover recording was released last week, U.S. District Judge James Peterson ordered the Wisconsin DMV to investigate its voter ID program and report back on the problems by Friday.
After the voting rights law was passed in 2014 by the Republican-led state Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, liberal groups sued to prevent it from being implemented. Federal appeals courts upheld the central tenant of the law, that voters would be required to show photo IDs, but struck down other provisions limiting early voting and the law’s provision against expired IDs that would otherwise pass muster.
Opponents of the law argued it discriminates against low-income voters, college students and minorities, the three groups most likely not to possess a state ID such as a driver’s license.