Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law Forces Woman To Pay Unconstitutional Birth Certificate Poll Tax To Get Photo ID

Jennifer "Rita" Platt

The onslaught of state voter ID bills this year are quite literally robbing Americans of a way to vote come November 2012. In Wisconsin, the new photo ID requirement is creating obstacles that are so onerous, prejudicial, and even paradoxical that many Wisconsinites cannot obtain the necessary photo ID.

Jennifer “Rita” Platt and her boyfriend, for instance, have every intention of voting next year and decided to get a jump start on complying with the new law. Realizing they did not have the necessary forms of identification accepted at the polls, they traveled to a Department of Motor Vehicles 45 minutes away because the DMVs in their county only open one day a month.

Not only was the DMV system down but Platt was told that, even with an expired driver’s license and Social Security card, she didn’t have the right documents to get an ID:

The DMV office’s computer system was down, which meant they couldn’t get an ID processed. And they were told they didn’t have the proper identification to get a state ID card or a Wisconsin driver’s license, Platt said.

“They said I didn’t have a certified birth certificate or a current passport,” said Platt, who said she had asked the DMV what was needed before heading to Hudson.

She had brought an expired Iowa driver’s license, her Social Security card and a pay stub from the St. Croix Falls school district, where she works as a librarian, believing those items would satisfy the DMV’s requirements, she said.

Platt, of Osceola, said she is going to have to find her certified birth certificate or request a new one, take unpaid time off from work and again make the trip to the DMV.

Not only do new birth certificates cost at least $20 each, but obtaining a new birth certificate in Wisconsin is no easy matter due to misleading form that suggests applicants need a “current valid photo ID” to get a birth certificate, which they need to get a photo ID. Worse, by charging any fee whatsoever for a document people need in order to exercise their right to vote, Wisconsin violates the Constitution’s ban on poll taxes.

Platt’s state Rep. Erik Severson (R) is unsympathetic. “I don’t see how it’s going to disenfranchise anybody.” Right now, “we don’t have any idea..how many people are voting illegally,” he said. In reality, we do have an idea, at Severson’s supposedly high rate of voter fraud currently stands at 0.0002 percent.

So far, these laws are forcing people in Wisconsin to fight — and even pay — for their right to vote. Platt plans to join the NAACP in a lawsuit to be filed this week against the law. “We think that there’s thousands of stories like Rita’s around the state,” said NAACP attorney Richard Saks. “We know about a lot of them, but we don’t know about all of them.”