At first, voter identification laws seemed like a reasonable concept that prevents voting fraud during elections. However, these laws are sometimes manipulated to make it difficult for certain demographics to vote. The April 5 primary elections of Wisconsin showed just how these voting ID laws can make it difficult for many people to vote, and some people are going to the courts to fight for their right to vote.
One of these people is Eddie Lee Holloway Jr., a 58 year old African American man who is enthusiastic about the democratic process. Holloway says “I never miss voting,” and he had no issue voting in Wisconsin until the controversial voter ID laws were passed in 2011. The new laws have made it very difficult for Holloway to get the photo identification needed before he could vote. The DMV would not give him a Wisconsin photo ID, even though he brought in his expired photo ID from Illinois and his social security card, because his birth certificate says “Eddie Junior Holloway,” which is just a minor clerical error.
After his move from Illinois to Wisconsin, Holloway has not been able to find work, and his job search is made even more difficult by the fact that he is disabled. Though Holloway is given food and shelter by his family, he does not have the $600 dollars that the Wisconsin Vital Records System would charge to fix his birth certificate. When Holloway contacted the Illinois Vital Records Division, he was told he had to go to Springfield, Illinois in person to fix the clerical error on his birth certificate.
Holloway desperately wanted to vote, so he spent $180 and used eight hours of time to travel to his home state. Once in Springfield, the division then told him he had to go to his hometown, Decatur, to get high school records. After convincing a friend to drive him to Decatur by offering to pay $20 in gas, Holloway returned to Springfield with the required records. Then he was told that he could not fix the error without his Social Security statement, so Holloway went back to Milwaukee to find them.
Once he finally got all the correct records, the Illinois Vital Records told him he could not email or fax them to their office, and the only way they could change the issue was if he traveled to Springfield again in person. However, Holloway’s meager funds were exhausted, and he could not afford to make another trip to a different state. Sadly, he had to give up on his desire to vote because he could not meet Wisconsin’s requirements.
Holloway is just one of the many people who were prevented from voting due to these stringent laws. The ACLU decided to challenge the state’s laws because it prevented poor people from being able to vote. After hearing their case, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the laws must be re-examined, and the state must find a way to provide relief for voters who are unable to “obtain a qualifying photo ID with reasonable effort.” According to Judge Frank Easterbrook, “The right to vote is personal and is not defeated by the fact that 99% of other people can secure the necessary credentials easily.” Hopefully, once the law is altered, voters who were prevented from casting their ballot will be able to get their votes to count after all. Since there is no evidence that voter ID laws actually prevent voting fraud, Wisconsin will most likely soften their rigorous laws after this ruling.