The War on Voting, Wisconsin edition

We talked over the weekend about the Republican “war on voting” as a national problem, but let’s take a moment to look at one state in particular: Wisconsin.

As Laura Conaway explained today, “Under Wisconsin’s new law to make voting harder, you have to present a valid photo ID at the polling place. One acceptable form comes from the Division of Motor Vehicles. The IDs normally cost $28, but you can get one for free.” That makes sense, of course, since the alternative is forcing voters to pay $28 in order be allowed to participate in their democracy.

So, what’s the problem? Aside from the fact that Wisconsin’s voter-ID law creates unnecessary hurdles that discourages voting, there’s also the matter of how the law is being enforced. (thanks to smintheus for the tip)

An internal memo from a top Department of Transportation official instructs workers at Division of Motor Vehicles service centers not to tell members of the public that they can obtain voter identification cards free of charge — unless they know to ask for it.

The memo, recently obtained by The Capital Times, was written by Steve Krieser and sent to all state Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles employees on July 1, the same day employees were to begin issuing photo IDs in accordance with a controversial new Voter Photo ID law adopted earlier in the year.

As laid out in the memo, failure to check a box when applying for photo ID with the Division of Motor Vehicles will result in the payment of $28. Interviews conducted about the memo suggest the state is more interested in continuing to charge the fee, which is required for a photo ID used for non-voting purposes, than it is in removing all barriers and providing easy access to a free, photo ID.

“While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it,” Krieser writes to employees.

Krieser worked as a Republican chief of staff in the state legislature.

“It was clear to me from the beginning that people would be disenfranchised because of this law,” a Democratic state lawmakers said after reading a copy of the memo. “Now we have the proof that people are not going to be getting these IDs unless the say the ‘magic words.'”

This comes on the heels of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pursuing, though ultimately abandoning, a plan to close some DMV offices — where locals could register to vote and/or obtain an ID — in predominantly Democratic districts.

These guys really aren’t subtle.