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The Next Step in Wisconsin’s Disenfranchisement Agenda

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during an inauguration ceremony in the rotunda of the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

CREDIT: AP / Morry Gash

If there has been any doubt regarding the intent behind this year's upsurge in voter ID legislation, Governor Scott Walker's latest move leaves little room to question the conservative disenfranchisement agenda, at least in the state of Wisconsin. In what seems like a blatant attempt to lessen the accessibility of photo identification, Governor Walker's administration has announced the closure of sixteen DMV centers throughout the state – for "economic" purposes.

"What the heck is going on here? Is politics at play here?" asked Rep. Andy Jorgenson (D-Fort Atkinson). The Department of Transportation plans to close the DMV center in Jorgenson's county of Fort Atkinson, with the next nearest station more than thirty minutes away by car.

An official from the Department of Transportation, however, insists that there is no correlation between the state’s recent passage of legislation requiring photo ID to vote and the planned closing of sixteen centers that provide the required identification.

Randy Newson, the executive assistant at the Department of Transportation, said the closings were part of a plan to provide service in every county efficiently. While sixteen centers will be closing, nine centers will start extending hours. But this raises some contradictions. With less DMVs in each county giving out photo IDs, the result will likely be longer lines and a longer commute for those who depended on closed centers.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that one lawmaker observed the majority of the sixteen centers to be in Democratic areas, while the centers that would have extended hours lie heavily in Republican areas.  It’s no coincidence that those without photo IDs – students, low-income communities, and people of color – are more likely to vote for Democrats. Over 500,000 eligible voters in Wisconsin lack the proper form of identification mandated by the state’s new photo ID requirements, including close to 200,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24.

Governor Walker has said that he believes the new law will survive any legal challenge. But as Campus Progress previously reported, sixteen U.S. senators, including Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, have asked the Department of Justice to investigate the constitutionality of voter ID laws. Walker’s decision to close sixteen DMVs represents a concerted effort to make it harder to comply with the law, and ultimately a brazen attack on the constitutional right to vote.  

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