Johnny Randle, a 74-year-old African-American resident of Milwaukee, moved to Wisconsin from Mississippi in 2011, the same year the state legislature passed a law requiring a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Randle, with the help of his daughter, petitioned the DMV to issue him a free ID for voting because he could not afford to pay for his Mississippi birth certificate.
After a five-month “adjudication process,” the DMV denied his request. His daughter ultimately tracked down his Mississippi birth certificate, but the name listed, Johnnie Marton Randall, did not match the name he’d used his entire life, Johnny Martin Randle. The DMV said that he would either need to correct his name through the Social Security Administration and get a new Social Security card reflecting the name on his birth certificate or go to court to “change” his name and “provide court documents reflecting that your name has legally been changed to read as ‘Johnny M Randle.’” But Randle worried that any change to his Social Security information might interrupt the monthly disability payments he survives on. (This account comes from a new lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s voting restrictions filed by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, Hillary Clinton’s campaign counsel.)
Randle was forced to choose between his livelihood and his right to vote. As of the April 5 presidential primary, he is still not able to vote in Wisconsin. After voting without incident in the formerly Jim Crow South, he was disenfranchised when he moved to the North. Stories like Randle’s are why the Wisconsin Supreme Court dubbed the voter ID law a “de facto poll tax” and it was blocked in state and federal court until a panel of Republican-appointed judges reinstated the measure in 2014.
Randle is one of 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin, 9 percent of the electorate, who do not have a government-issued photo ID and could be disenfranchised by the state’s new voter-ID law, which is in effect for the first time in 2016. Wisconsin, one of the country’s most important battleground states, is one of 16 states with new voting restrictions in place since 2012. The five-hour lines in Arizona were the most recent example of America’s election problems. Wisconsin could be next.
Randle’s account is hardly unique in Wisconsin. The lead plaintiff who challenged the voter-ID law, 89-year-old Ruthelle Frank, has been voting since 1948 and has served on the Village Board in her hometown of Brokaw since 1996, but cannot get a photo ID for voting because her maiden name is misspelled on her birth certificate, which would cost $200 to correct. “No one should have to pay a fee to be able to vote,” Frank said.