August 5, 2003 TO THE HONORABLE MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY: I am vetoing AB 111 in its entirety. This bill would require all individuals registering to vote or registered voters attempting to cast a ballot to present a valid Wisconsin driver's license or identification card issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT), or a valid, current military identification card or be denied the right to vote.
Wisconsin has a long and proud tradition of promoting laws that provide all qualified citizens maximum access to their constitutional right to vote. As a result of our state's open election laws, including same-day registration, Wisconsin is a national leader in voter turnout. Despite these successes, we should always be seeking ways to reduce barriers to voting and make it easier for individuals to vote. Assembly Bill 111 would retreat from this heritage by making it harder for Wisconsin residents, including some of our most vulnerable citizens, to exercise their franchise.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, approximately 123,000 Wisconsin residents of voting age do not have a valid DOT-issued driver's license or photo identification card. Nearly 70 percent of these individuals, or 85,000 Wisconsin residents, are elderly voters that would be disenfranchised by AB 111. Many others are young people, often students, who have never had a driver's license or valid Wisconsin photo identification card. Furthermore, many of the individuals who would be disenfranchised by this bill live in poverty, are members of minority communities, frequently change address, or are disabled. I will not sign into law a piece of legislation that would strip the right to vote away from the elderly, minorities, students, the disabled, the transient, and the poor.
Furthermore, this legislation is unnecessary and overly burdensome. Most states are actually precluded by state statute from asking for voter identification at the polls. According to the Federal Elections Commission, thirty states do not require voters to present any kind of identification on Election Day. Only eight states mandate voter identification at the polls for all voters, and of these eight states, only South Carolina makes no provision for a voter without identification to cast a vote. Consequently, AB 111 would make Wisconsin the second state in the union to mandate a photo identification card for all voters or deny them their right to vote.
Even the federal government, when presented the opportunity, refused to implement a restrictive photo identification requirement. Congress adopted, and the President signed into law, a voter identification that is arguably more lax than Wisconsin's current voter identification standard. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires only absentee voters to provide identification if they register by mail and have not voted previously in a federal election in their state of residence. Under federal law, this identification is a governmental or non-governmental photo identification card or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or a check or other document issued by a unit of government that shows the individual's current name and address. Wisconsin law requires all voters registering on the day of election to provide proof of residence which includes a current and complete name and residential address. Under state law, this identification includes a driver's license or photo identification card, any other official identification card issued by a governmental entity, a credit card, a library card, a residential lease, a telephone bill, or a utility bill. If a voter cannot supply acceptable proof of residence, the voter's registration form can be corroborated and signed by one other elector who resides in the same municipality. The corroborator must then provide acceptable proof of residence. Wisconsin law, therefore, is consistent and possibly more precautionary than federal law.
What is more, AB 111 would cost the state scarce resources in order to disenfranchise voters. According to the Department of Transportation, AB 111 would result in an annual revenue loss of $726,900 to pay for the provision of the bill that would require DOT for issuing IDs at no charge. In addition, DOT estimates that $120,000 and 3 FTE will be needed for ongoing DMV workload increases as a result of the bill. Furthermore, because AB 111 would create a fundamental change in voting procedure, extensive outreach to voters and local election officials would be required. This activity is not funded and will require planning and coordination among state and local election officials. As a result, the Elections Board and local election officials will incur costs for poll worker training, voter education and form revision.
In conclusion, it is a primary responsibility of government to protect the right of all citizens to vote, and not make the process unduly burdensome. AB 111, which would disenfranchise thousands of our most vulnerable voters, is simply not in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin. Respectfully Submitted, Jim Doyle Governor