Milwaukee—Dennis Hatten voted in Wisconsin yesterday, but it wasn’t easy for him, or thousands of other voters.
Hatten spent months trying to get a voter ID and then had to make multiple trips to the polls to vote. Meanwhile, students waited hours to cast a ballot at Marquette, in addition to long waits at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and University of Wisconsin–Green Bay. Others left the polls because of the long lines or didn’t get to vote because of the voter-ID law.
Hatten, a 53-year-old African-American man, moved to Wisconsin from Illinois in 2013 after losing his job as a powder coater. A veteran of the Marines, he relocated to Milwaukee to seek help from the VA hospital, which put him up in temporary housing while he was homeless. He wanted to vote in Wisconsin, but his Illinois driver’s license was not accepted under the state’s strict voter-ID law, nor was his veteran’s ID at the time.
In August of 2015, he met Anita Johnson, Wisconsin coordinator of VoteRiders, who helped him try to get a photo ID for voting in Wisconsin. It became a bureaucratic nightmare. The DMV rejected Hatten’s application for a free ID because he didn’t have a birth certificate. After Johnson resubmitted his hospital and birth records, the DMV said the birthdate didn’t match. Finally, Johnson discovered that Hatten was delivered by a French midwife in Arkansas, who spelled his name D’Nette instead of Dennis, but the DMV said Hatten would need to change his name through the Social Security Administration to get an ID for voting.
After a lengthy back-and-forth with the DMV, Johnson discovered that Hatten had used the name D’Nette when he first applied for a Social Security card, which allowed the DMV to finally verify his identify and issue Hatten a state photo ID. “If Dennis didn’t have someone to advocate for him, he would have given up,” Johnson said.
His Election Day experience didn’t go much more smoothly. Hatten brought his state photo ID with him to the polls, but the address on it didn’t match the address of his new apartment, which the poll workers needed to register him at his new polling site. While he was conferring with the poll worker, another man who tried to register and vote with his veteran’s ID, which does not contain an address, was turned away from the polls.