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Why am I opposed to the new Voter ID bill in Wisconsin? Here’s one reason: it shouldn’t have to cost you money to exercise your constitutional rights. In the case of a poor person, it can be a significant amount of money just to get a state ID.
Let’s walk through this. Here are my assumptions: a person working for minimum wage who lives on the north side of Milwaukee and was born in Milwaukee County.
The fee for a state ID card (not a driver’s license) is $28. But to get that, you have to have a birth certificate. To get that, you have to go to the register of deeds office in the Courthouse or mail your request. The fee is $20. Many people in poor neighborhoods don’t have checking accounts, so you have to get a money order. I don’t know how much that costs at one of the check cashing places so prevalent in poor neighborhoods, but it’s $1.10 at the post office. It takes 2-3 weeks to get it. You also need to show the DMV proof of identity. We’ll just assume you have a Social Security Card. If you lost yours, well, I don’t know what you do, because they require proof of identity like a state-issued identification card or a passport, which of course you don’t have. At least the card is free, but from personal experience, you’ll have a long wait in the Social Security office.
Whcih brings me to another point: time. The DMV is only open during the weekdays. If you work a minimum wage job, you’re unlikely to have paid time off. So it will cost you $7.25/hr to go to the DMV. First you have to get there. You don’t have a driver’s license, so it costs you 2.25 by bus. From 35th & North, the bus takes 30 minutes to get to the Downtown DMV. I’ve never been in and out of the DMV in under an hour, and the downtown branch tends to be busy, so let’s allow one hour at the DMV and one hour to and from. Then, of course, you have to get to work, so let’s allow another half an hour for that. That’s a bare minimum of 2.5 hours to get your ID card, or $18.13 in lost wages.
Let’s add it up!
ID card fee $28
Birth certificate $20
Money order $1.10
Postage for birth certificate request 44c
Minimum wage $7.25/hr * 2.5 hrs = $18.13
Bus fare 2.25 each way * 2 = $5.50
That’s a lot of money if you’re poor. Didn’t we outlaw poll taxes because they disenfranchised poor voters? Oh yeah, they were abolished IN THE 24th AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION.