Archive | November, 2011

Troubles with Requiring Photo ID to Vote – Tell Your Story to the ACLU of Wisconsin

17 Nov

Starting in February, all Wisconsin voters are going to have to show photo ID to vote. For most voters, that means they have to show an unexpired Wisconsin state ID card or driver’s license. A few other kinds of photo identification cards, like some tribal, college and military IDs, unexpired U.S. passport, or a recent certificate of naturalization, will also be acceptable. Read more about what is in the law on the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board’s Voter Photo ID law webpage (Spanish, DMV).

But the ACLU of Wisconsin is hearing from otherwise eligible voters who are not included among those who have one of the qualifying IDs to vote. Will you or someone you know not be able to get a photo IDs to vote in 2012?

People who cannot get a photo ID to vote in Wisconsin under the new law may include people who:

  • were born in Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Puerto Rico, and do not have a certified copy of their birth certificate (For people born in Puerto Rico, the copy must be from October 2010 or later);
  • were never issued a birth certificate (for example, because they were born at home in a state like Mississippi, Alabama or Tennessee), or for some reason other than lack of money they can’t get a birth certificate (for example, they don’t have the kind of ID they need to get a birth certificate from the state where they were born);
  • are having trouble getting a qualifying photo ID because they have little or no income so they can’t afford the papers they need to get the ID such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or certificates of U.S. citizenship or naturalization;
  • are having trouble getting a qualifying photo ID because they cannot obtain a Social Security Card due to lack of proof of identity—and in a Catch-22—have no other way to prove identity to the DMV;
  • are having trouble getting a photo ID because they don’t have transportation to get to the DMV office, or they work during all the hours their local DMV office is open;
  • do not have a regular home address or they do not have proof of their address in their name like a utility bill or paycheck. For example, they are homeless, they live in a shelter, they live in someone else’s house and don’t have bills in their name, or they move often and don’t have a regular address;
  • are a person with a disability that will make it very hard for them to get to a DMV office to get their photo ID, it is hard for them to leave their home, or they are unable to sign their name sometimes or always;
  • are a student at a Wisconsin technical college and they don’t have a Wisconsin driver’s license, state ID card, U.S. passport, or tribal or military ID;
  • or are a student at any Wisconsin college or university, they have a driver’s license from another state (but don’t have a car or drive regularly in Wisconsin) and do not have a passport or tribal or military ID.

If you or if someone you know has a story to share about barriers to obtaining a photo ID to vote in Wisconsin, contact the ACLU of Wisconsin at  (414) 272 4032, ext. 216 or email your story to  inquiries@aclu

Please remember that the details of the voter ID law, particularly for students, may still change between now and elections in 2012. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and the Wisconsin Election Protection Coalition will provide more voting rights information in the future. But if you or someone you know falls into a category described above, we still want to hear your story.

Find more on voting rights in Wisconsin on the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Voting Rights webpage, including fliers to download and share with people in your community who may be disfranchised by the new photo ID requirement to vote.

Capitol Crackdown an Abuse of Power

9 Nov

ACLU of WI Supports Citizens’ Right to Silently Dissent and Document Government Activity in Galleries

The citations issued during this legislative session by law enforcement to protesters holding signs and videotaping events at the Capitol represent another chapter in an almost year-long story of the suppression of citizens’ access to government and the right to free expression and assembly.

ACLU of Wisconsin on rights of assembly, cameras:

“The arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Capitol hearing rooms and galleries bring public attention to the ongoing abuses of power in our state government,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Christopher Ahmuty. “And while rules against flash photography and other disruptions may be sensible, the authorities have turned an interpretation of rules into a tool to suppress individuals’ rights to videotape and document our government’s activities. Whether people are videotaping a hearing or documenting arrests by police, a ban on non-disruptive video and camera use makes no sense in the 21st century.”

“There is no doubt the legislature has a legitimate interest in conducting its business efficiently,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis, “but the Constitution demands that First Amendment activity receives the highest degree of protection. It is hard to see how a ban on silently holding signs or peacefully recording activity in Capitol galleries or hearing rooms is necessary to the efficient operation of the legislature. The mere fact that legislators find criticism and transparency inconvenient does not justify the suppression of speech and the gathering of information by Wisconsinites.”

Dupuis said that our country and the State of Wisconsin have always been committed to protecting political dissent to the greatest possible extent. He points to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Terminiello v. Chicago which stated that “speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects… [T]he alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts or dominant political or community groups.’”

Media coverage of protests:

Read more about the murky camera rules in Dee Hall’s article in the Wisconsin State Journal in which she refers to the arrest of Progressive Magazine editor Matt Rothschild (video below – spot the ACLU of Wisconsin legal observer volunteer documenting Capitol arrests with journalists and bloggers)

Videos of the gallery conflict and Assembly floor debate on free speech that happened on Tuesday, October 25 which were posted to the Dane 101 news blog.

Chris Rickert wrote a column for the State Journal where he outlined a brief history of the gallery rules. He wrote that “the state law banning photo-taking and recording ‘in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants’ goes back to 1977. Assembly rules banning the use of cell phones and, in certain cases, microphones are 10 years old or more, and Senate rules dating to 2009 or earlier ban signs, cell phone use and photo-taking, among other things.” 

What you can do:

Wisconsinites who care about the First Amendment should contact their legislators and demand modernization of Capitol photography rules and an end to suppression of silent, peaceful protest in the galleries of the “People’s House.”  While there should be limits on protest activity that is disruptive, police enforcement of a ban on a range of items interpreted as “signs” (from a post-it note on the bottom of someone’s foot, notebook papers taped to shirts, doodles on a spiral notebook and copies of the state or federal Constitution) must stop. Camera use, whether it is non-flash still photography or video cameras, should be allowed so that citizens can document their government’s activity. And as cell phone technology advances, policies should evolve to include non-disruptive uses of cell phones including cameras, video and texting.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will also continue, as it has in the past, to dispatch trained legal observers to document announced demonstrations, as resources permit. The next legal observer training in Madison will be on November 16th find the event listing on Facebook or on our website. Contact (608) 469-5540 to find out how to volunteer.

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