Bill Passes 19 – 5; Eight Democrats Failed to Vote. Previously Passed House 60 – 35.
Madison – Senate Republicans approved requiring people to show photo ID at the polls amid a cacophonous vote Thursday, with eight Democrats not even voting on the measure in protest and because of confusion over how the proceedings were conducted.
Immediately after the 19-5 vote was tallied, the crowd in the viewing gallery thundered with chants of “Shame!” as senators exited the chamber. Later, they chanted “Recall!” and sang “We Shall Overcome.”
Republican Gov. Scott Walker plans to sign the bill Wednesday in a ceremony at the Capitol.
“Requiring photo identification to vote will go a long way to eliminate the threat of voter fraud,” Walker said in a statement. “If you need an ID to buy cold medicine, it’s reasonable to require it to vote.”
But Democrats decried the measure, saying it would do little to prevent voter fraud while disenfranchising thousands of minority, elderly and rural voters.
“This is voter suppression,” said Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). “This is voter disenfranchisement. This is voter confusion. This is voter restriction. This is a voter discouragement bill.”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s photo ID law in 2008, but opponents say Wisconsin’s law could be vulnerable to a legal challenge because of differences between the states. Unlike voters in Indiana, people in Wisconsin casting absentee ballots would have to include a photocopy of their ID when they mail their ballots. Getting copies made will be an additional burden on elderly voters and others with limited mobility, critics said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he was confident the photo ID requirement was constitutional.
Before debate began at 10 a.m., Senate Republican leaders imposed a one-hour limit on discussion of the bill, frustrating Democrats who engaged in more than nine hours of debate on the bill Tuesday into Wednesday.
It was just the third time in recent history that limits had been put on debate in the Senate. It last happened in 2003 on the state budget and 1995 on welfare reform, according to Senate officials. Republicans were in charge both times.
Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), the longest-serving state legislator in the country, began speaking a few minutes before the vote was called. Risser refused to stop talking when Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) called the vote, saying he deserved to have his say since he’d been recognized.
“In my 50 years, I’ve never had anyone cut me off!” Risser said, before calmly resuming his criticism of the vote.
In the pandemonium, all 19 Republicans voted for the bill, five Democrats voted against it and eight Democrats did not vote at all. Senate leaders said the eight Democrats would be allowed to record their votes when they next meet in June.
The Assembly passed the bill 60-35 last week, with two Democrats joining all Republicans.