MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Senate gave final legislative approval Thursday to a bill that would require Wisconsin voters to show photo identification at the polls, setting the plan up for Gov. Scott Walker’s signature.
Assembly Republicans passed the measure in a late-night session last week. Republicans who control the Senate brought the bill up for debate on Tuesday, but Democrats railed against it until the early morning hours on Wednesday. In a last-ditch effort, they used a procedural maneuver to delay the final vote until Thursday morning.
Republicans limited debate to an hour when senators came to the floor. Democrats used 10 minutes complaining about the limits, but Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Democrats had plenty of opportunity to speak. In the end the bill passed 19-5 along party lines. It’s all but certain Walker will sign the measure into law.
Spectators in the Senate gallery exploded into shouts and screams after the vote, yelling “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “Recall! Recall! Recall!” They then burst into singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Republicans have been pushing the photo ID bill for years. They contend it’s needed to curtail voter fraud. Democrats maintain widespread voter fraud doesn’t exist and Republicans really want to disenfranchise groups that support Democrats, such as senior citizens, college students and the poor. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, vetoed similar GOP proposals three times between 2002 and 2005. Now Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office, clearing the way for passage.
Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, accused Republicans of acting like dictators.
“Madison looks more like Moscow today,” Jauch said. “This is a Republican majority that has gone berserk with power.”
Republicans sat quietly, waiting for the Democrats to use up their time. Still, Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, stood up to respond to Jauch, saying in today’s world people need an ID to do nearly everything, from driving a car to buying beer and most people want to make sure everyone else is voting legally.
“If you plan your life, you can get (an ID). And most people already have one,” he said. “One fraudulent vote cancels out a legal vote.”
Under the bill, voters would have to present a driver’s license, a state ID, a passport, a military ID, naturalization papers or a tribal ID. College students could vote with a school ID as long as it has their signature and an expiration date that falls within two years of the card’s issuance. University of Wisconsin IDs currently don’t meet that criteria and would have to be updated to comply before students could vote.
Voters would be asked for ID in elections starting this year but will be allowed to vote without one. Beginning next year, they would not be allowed to cast a ballot without one.
A number of other changes would take effect immediately, including requiring voters to sign poll books and to live at their current address for 28 days rather than 10 before they could cast a ballot.
“In the end, what we’re doing here is very clear. Republicans want to wreck the Democratic Party,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. “This bill is indefensible. This legislation is based on rumors and lies.”
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