An individual calling himself “conservative” recently compared registering a poor person to vote to “handing out burglary tools to criminals.” Another has blamed the “depravity of the poor” — rather than the depressed economy — for their plight. I have been inclined to dismiss these comments as the ravings of wingnuts. But that is no longer possible. In Wisconsin, the recently promoted DMV boss has instructed his employees to charge those seeking voter ID cards $28 unless they say certain magic words while applying for them. The ID is now prerequisite to voting in the state. The Madison Capital Times:
An internal memo from a top Department of Transportation official instructs workers at Division of Motor Vehicles service centers not to tell members of the public that they can obtain voter identification cards free of charge — unless they know to ask for it.
The memo, recently obtained by The Capital Times, was written by Steve Krieser and sent to all state Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles employees on July 1, the same day employees were to begin issuing photo IDs in accordance with a controversial new voter photo ID law adopted earlier in the year.
As laid out in the memo, failure to check a box when applying for photo ID with the Division of Motor Vehicles will result in the payment of $28. Interviews conducted about the memo suggest the state is more interested in continuing to charge the fee, which is required for a photo ID used for non-voting purposes, than it is in removing all barriers and providing easy access to a free, photo ID.
“While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it,” Krieser writes to employees.
Krieser, who was recently promoted to executive assistant to the DOT secretary, instructs staff that customers should “self certify” their eligibility for the free ID. They can do that, he writes, if they meet the documentation requirements; if they are at least 17 years old; if they have checked the correct certification box on the new forms; and, most significantly, if they are “asking for a product that is available for free issuance.”
The law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker on May 25, requires Wisconsin residents to present identification before they can vote. Republicans said it was necessary to combat voter fraud.
TPM has pointed out that the option of free photo identification is necessary in order to prevent the law from clearly becoming a “poll tax,” which was made unconstitutional by the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1964. But I’m not sure that solves the problem.