In the internal memo, Steve Krieser, executive assistant to the DOT secretary, instructs staffers to refrain from telling members of the public that they can obtain free voter identification cards unless they specifically request it.
“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,” the memo reads. We’ve posted the full memo HERE.
To his credit, Republican Evan Wynn, whose 43rd Assembly District includes most of our readership area and who was a strong supporter of the bill, quickly took issue with the policy.
In a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb, Wynn wrote, “The memo detailing the implementation of free photo identification is concerning, to say the least.
“As long as the individual provides the proper documents to prove that they are who they claim to be, it should be the department’s mission and goal to remove all barriers from obtaining that identification — including the price tag.
“Providing free identification to those who seek to vote is the very foundation of the premise of ‘Voter ID.’ Placing unnecessary barriers undermines our elections and undermines the intent of the law.”
You’d think that after taking heat from Wynn and his colleagues, Gottlieb would back off his comments, but instead, in a letter to Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, Gottlieb doubled down.
In the letter, the secretary says the language of the original voter ID bill “clearly places responsibility on the applicant to request that the product be issued without cost.”
But that’s not how Wynn sees it.
The issue came to light after Chris Larsen, a state employee, forwarded the internal memo to media outlets. Larsen has since been fired for what officials describe as “repeated inappropriate behavior.”
Maybe so, but the timing of the firing did nothing to quell suspicions that it was politically motivated.
Then on Monday, the head of the state’s League of Women Voters, Andrea Kaminski, told the state Government Accountability Board that the group is about to file a lawsuit challenging the voter ID law.
According to Kaminski, the law is unconstitutional, saying it creates a class of people who won’t have the proper IDs to vote.
This latest nonsense illustrates the lack of common sense surrounding the voter ID issue from the very beginning.
The legislation, Act 23, was signed into law May 25 and was one of the first pieces of legislation to move through the state Capitol after Republicans gained control of both the Senate and Assembly. Democrats were able to thwart passage for years.
The Republicans’ argument was that the bill was a way to clamp down on voter fraud and restore confidence in the integrity of the state’s electoral system.
However, despite extensive investigations, major media outlets found few cases of voter fraud have ever been prosecuted. That led Democrats to argue the move was simply a way to limit the number of likely Democratic voters going to the polls.
On the other hand, it was hard to buy Democrats’ claims that large numbers of voters would be disenfranchised when a person needs an ID to do just about anything else in their daily routine.
If anything, the DMV policy to provide free IDs only if asked just adds credence to the argument that Republicans are trying to limit access to the polls.
Other than Wynn, is that really where Republicans want to go with this issue?
Hopefully, common sense will prevail and the free ID hurdle will be eliminated.