On July 29, US District Judge James Peterson called Wisconsin’s process for issuing voter IDs “unconstitutional,” “a wretched failure,” and “pretty much a disaster.” The state’s strict voter-ID law “has disenfranchised a number of citizens who are unquestionably qualified to vote, and these disenfranchised citizens are overwhelmingly African American and Latino,” he wrote.
The judge ordered that “Wisconsin may adopt a strict voter ID system only if that system has a well-functioning safety net” and that the state must “promptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person who enters the [ID petition process] or who has a petition pending.”
But Wisconsin never followed the court’s order. On September 22, the same day Wisconsin assured the judge in a legal filing that everything was hunky-dory, Zack Moore, a 34-year-old homeless African-American man who moved from Chicago to Madison, was turned away from the DMV without a voter ID despite bringing an Illinois driver’s license, Social Security card, and proof of Wisconsin residency. He was told to go back to Illinois and get his birth certificate, or else it would take six to eight weeks for him to get an ID for voting, despite a sign in the DMV that said, “Get your ID to vote! No birth certificate? No problem!”
Reporting in The Nation and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, based on DMV recordings provided by VoteRiders, confirmed that across the state Wisconsin was systematically failing to promptly issue IDs for voting as required by the court order. In response, Peterson ordered an investigation and held a hearing on October 12 and 13.
Kristina Boardman, the DMV’s administrator, admitted on the stand that for two months after the court’s July order, the DMV was giving voters incorrect information about the voter-ID law. “I’m very disappointed to see that the state really did nothing in response to my order,” Peterson said on October 12. “There was really, as far as I can tell, no effort made…to inform the public.” He called the DMV’s voter-ID training “manifestly inadequate” and said, “Undeniably there are people who have been disenfranchised.” He concluded, “The state really needs to step up and make sure the IDs get into the hands of voters who can’t have them [under the current system].”