Longtime political activist Lorraine Hawkinson, 88, has been worrying a lot since Wisconsin adopted a strict voter ID law (PDF).
Starting next year, voters will have to present a government-issued photo identification card in order to cast a ballot. Acceptable IDs include a driver's license or a non-driver ID card issued by the state Division of Motor Vehicles. Other forms of identification include a U.S. passport or an ID card issued by the U.S. military or a federally recognized Indian tribe.
Hawkinson, who lives in a farmhouse in Dunn, no longer drives, so she plans to hire someone to drive her the 20 miles from her home to Madison, where she'll apply for an ID card. It's inconvenient, she said, but she's concerned that many other Wisconsinites will face a greater burden.
"People in our rural counties might live 40, 50 miles or more from their nearest motor vehicle office," she said, "and many are only open a few hours a week — if that."
The legislature set aside money for the DMV to provide driver's license and ID card services for at least 20 hours a week in all 72 counties — only 30 of them have it now. But the new DMV facilities will not open until late January. Photo IDs will be required for the primary elections in February 2012.
Nancy Riggs, 79, of Fort Atkinson, is also worried about the law's impact. "I'm so afraid this law could affect the voting rights of people my age and older," she said. "Especially those who are frail and homebound or live far from a motor vehicle office."
A 2005 study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee estimated that nearly 180,000 Wisconsinites 65 and older do not have a driver's license or official photo ID.
Wisconsin is one of seven states — up from two at the beginning of this year — that require voters to show a photo ID. Seven other states ask for a photo ID but permit people to vote if they have certain other documents. In 16 states, voters must show some proof of identity such as a utility bill that includes the voter's name and address.