State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
Requiring a photo ID to vote is a concept I strongly support, even more so after a recent court ruling and some significant findings from the November 2008 election.
Georgia’s photo ID law, one of the strictest in the country, had its constitutionality upheld by an appellate court on January 14, 2009. The court compared obtaining a photo ID to air travel, writing in its decision:
“Before an adult passenger can board an airplane for a commercial flight in the United States, the passenger must present to a federal official an identification card with a photograph of the passenger. The burden of that exercise assists the federal government in keeping passengers safe from physical harm. We conclude that the burden imposed by the requirement of photo identification is outweighed by the interests of Georgia in safeguarding the right to vote.”
The Georgia case was like many other court challenges to photo ID laws in that the plaintiffs were unable to produce evidence of individuals who either did not already possess a valid ID or could not easily obtain one. Two witnesses testified, according to the court ruling, “that they could and would obtain a free photo identification with little difficulty.”
More evidence strengthening the validity of requiring photo ID comes from the November 2008 presidential election. Hans von Spakovsky, a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and a former Justice Department official did some digging and uncovered some fascinating data about photo ID and voter turnout. Remember, opponents of photo ID argue that the requirement will suppress turnout, especially among minorities.
Von Spakovsky notes black turnout during the November 2008 election was an all-time high. He examined results from Indiana and Georgia, the two states with the strictest voter ID requirements.
Von Spakovsky found that numbers released by American University indicate Georgia had the largest turnout in the state’s history. The black share of Georgia’s vote increased from 25 percent during the 2004 election while Georgia did not have a photo ID law to 30 percent during the 2008 election while a photo ID requirement was enforced. Neighboring Mississippi that does not have a photo ID law and has a black population comparable to Georgia saw an increased turnout of just 2.35 percent.
What about Indiana, with a strict photo ID law ruled constitutional during 2008 by the U.S. Supreme Court? Von Spakovsky found that during the November 2008 election, Democrat turnout increased by 8.32 percent, the largest Democrat turnout increase in the U.S. Neighboring Illinois that does not have a photo ID law experienced just a 4.4 percent increase.
Von Spakovsky came to the conclusion that there is overwhelming evidence photo ID laws do not suppress voter turnout. In fact, Von Spakovsky believes voter confidence in the election system is enhanced by photo ID laws.
Opposition to voter IDs has come largely from those fearing the requirement will disenfranchise voters without IDs or would find it difficult to acquire them. The evidence suggests otherwise.
I have always supported and continue to support the implementation of a photo ID requirement for voting in Wisconsin.