Conservatively Speaking

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.

Despite Attacks from Left, Voter ID Moves in the Right Direction

With Republicans firmly in control of lawmaking in Wisconsin, we can finally protect the legitimacy of our elections by approving a voter ID law.  As chair of the Senate Transportation and Elections Committee, voter ID is a number one priority.  The citizens of Wisconsin have made it clear they overwhelmingly support this measure.

The nuances of the law will be worked out in the coming weeks; however, most lawmakers seem to agree that at a minimum, an ID must be shown in order to cast a valid ballot.  Representative Stone and Senator Leibham released a voter ID bill modeled after two that were previously vetoed by then-Governor Doyle.  This is a good place to start, and I believe we should also look outside our borders for ideas.

For example, Indiana currently has one of the strongest voter ID requirements in the country.  The Indiana law withstood state and federal constitutional challenges, and could provide our state with additional court-tested ideas.

Still, despite the stamp of approval from the U.S. Supreme Court and widespread public support, special interest groups are already moving to block this bill.

In fact, progressive non-profit organization OneWisconsinNow has already begun its attack campaign.  In a January 13, 2011 press release the group claimed that voter ID is a “big government solution to a problem that doesn't exist."  I disagree completely.

It seems that every election cycle brings new stories about voting irregularities at the polls.  Most recently, during the 2008 presidential election, Wisconsin endured an onslaught from the so-called community organization group ACORN.  Two members of ACORN, and Wisconsin residents, have subsequently been found guilty of election fraud.  We need to prevent this sort of abuse before it takes place.

Voter ID is a practical and effective solution to this problem.  The vast majority of Wisconsin residents will not have to take any additional steps to vote, since most people already have a state-issued ID.  People routinely use their ID to cash checks, buy alcohol, drive a car, and spend the night at the Rescue Mission.  For those without an ID, the new law may provide that they may obtain one free of charge.  This should effectively eliminate any claims of disenfranchisement.

That said, the issue now looming over the legislature is whether or not we can implement voter ID before the upcoming spring elections.  Application of the new law is more complicated than one may think.  Poll workers must receive additional training, the public must be given adequate notice, and the State must establish procedures to deal with issues that will arise at the polls.

With all of these moving parts, there are bound to be a couple of hiccups on the first try.  For this reason, I support fast-tracking voter ID so that it is in place for the election this coming April. 

I am told that we will experience a roughly 15 percent turnout in April.  In contrast, I am told the turnout in the presidential primary in the spring of the next year will likely be 40 percent; more than double the expected April turnout. 

In light of this, I would much rather work out all of the wrinkles with voter ID during this spring’s election.  The lines will be shorter and the polling places will be less chaotic.  Poll workers will be able to learn on the job and gain experience with the new system without being overwhelmed by a massive turnout.  We would then be able to analyze feedback after the April election and make any necessary tweaks.

That way, we can ensure our voter ID system will already be in top form for the 2012 presidential primary.  Also, by that time, we should have additional voter protections not currently available.

For example, I am in favor of requiring each voter to sign the poll book.  This would promote greater election legitimacy in two ways.  First, it would enable elections officials to quickly and easily compare a voter’s signature after an irregularity has been found. 

Second, it would ensure that each voter is assigned the correct ballot.  Currently, one may go to vote and find that someone else has already, mistakenly, been given a ballot under their name.  If we require each voter to sign by their own name rather than require poll workers to check off each name, we can easily prevent most of these irregularities.

That sort of system will require an update to the voter lists software in order to make enough room for signatures.  There is not enough time to do that before April. 

Therefore, I believe we should continue to make voter ID our current election-related priority.  This will provide safeguards for April’s election and will also serve as an important opportunity to work out the voter ID wrinkles before the presidential primary.

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