Voter Photo ID: Unconstitutional Poll Tax


The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State House and Senate passed a voter photo ID requirement bill this year, signed into law by Gov. Walker, which should be challenged in court, because it creates a condition for voting, by requiring citizens to pay fees to the state for a Drivers License, or to a county clerk for a certified birth certificate, or to federal authorities for a valid passport, all in violation of the 24th Amendment, which outlawed poll taxes.

The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election…shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

Since there was no measurable voter fraud problem in Wisconsin that would have had any effect whatsoever on the outcome of any race, the only purpose of the new statute was to suppress voter turnout, by solving a problem that did not exist.  The real purpose of the new law is to deter young people, who do not have Drivers Licenses, from voting. Since not all young citizens are in college, they may not have a substitute form of photo identification.

While a Drivers License is needed in a rural area where there is no other way to get around, in cities like Milwaukee, people can move about on buses, and a car is not essential. Some, who once had Drivers Licenses, may have lost them due to misdemeanor traffic offenses that led to suspension or revocation. Since they committed no felony, they still have a right to vote. Older citizens, who stopped driving for physical reasons, may not have a DL.

Forcing citizens to purchase Drivers Licenses from the state, as a condition for voting is a tax in violation of the 24th Amendment. Although an alternate photo ID for election purposes may be requested from the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), payments to the government are also required to obtain necessary paperwork.

The Wis. DOT website requires five separate types of proof for an alternate ID. Its says: “when applying, it will be necessary to provide: 1) “Proof of name and date of birth;” 2) “Proof of Identity;” 3) “Proof of Wisconsin Residency;” 4) “Proof of U.S. Citizenship,” and 5) Proof of a Social Security number.

To prove step one, “name and date of birth,” one must present a certified U.S. birth certificate, valid passport, or certificate of naturalization. If they were born in the U.S., they would have no naturalization papers. If they have an outdated passport, they can’t use it. They would have to pay a tax to the federal government to obtain a valid passport. While most have a copy of their birth certificate, a certified copy is required from the county and state of birth, again requiring fees to local clerks.

Assuming an applicant jumped through all of the various hoops, they still do not receive an alternate ID on the spot, as is the case with Drivers Licenses, where people have their photos taken, and are given a license a few minutes later. The DOT unnecessarily puts non-DL applicants in a separate class, by making them wait to receive their cards. The DOT site says: “original ID cards are mailed to applicants.” Why not just give them their ID cards on the spot? Can you spell voter suppression?

The new Wisconsin voter photo ID law unnecessarily creates financial barriers to voting, which violate the 24th Amendment and for this reason the law should be declared unconstitutional.

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