ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Where's the harm in voluntary ID check?

Shane Falk is making me feel bad, guilty even. The Government Accountability Board attorney did not name me specifically, but certainly suggested in a memo that I have confused and intimidated other Wisconsin voters. Every time I give poll worker...

Shane Falk is making me feel bad, guilty even.

The Government Accountability Board attorney did not name me specifically, but certainly suggested in a memo that I have confused and intimidated other Wisconsin voters.

Every time I give poll workers my name on Election Day, you see, I feel like I instinctively start to reach for my wallet. I live in a small, friendly town and the poll workers know me. But I still have this ingrained inclination to pull out my driver's license the same way I do in a gazillion and one other places that are extremely important to my way of life, like the grocery store where I buy beer.

In my early voting years, I probably even got the ID all the way out a few times before I remembered that this is Wisconsin and I'm only casting a ballot, not securing a six-pack. Certainly, having now read what I've read, I will not let it happen again.

Falk has informed the board - and the board has agreed - that Wisconsin law does not allow a system whereby people can voluntarily show an ID.

ADVERTISEMENT

I will let others debate whether something has to be mentioned in the statutes in order to be legal. I am not a lawyer, after all, and would have no idea how to even locate the statutes on, say, breathing or standing. I am just a schlub who frequently does breathe and stand in line to vote, however, and I was unaware of something.

Falk wrote that some voters "may be confused, intimidated or, at the very least, raise objections to witnessing a photo identification process at the polls, even if it is someone else in line who is being subjected to the request."

Absent your boss coming by with the United Way pledge form, I don't think volunteers are usually "subjected" to volunteering. But whatever. Wisconsinites, I guess Falk's point is, cannot just go around offering to prove who they are. This is America, the land of Internet pseudonyms, where only fools offer identification. Just witnessing somebody pull a real ID out could cause a witness to completely wig out. Or even leave.

Potential voter No. 1: Whoa . .. What's that guy in front of us pulling out of his pocket? A photo ID?

Potential voter No. 2: Where are we, Arizona?

Yes, the folks pushing for the right to voluntarily show an ID have an agenda. Ardis Cerny, one of the leaders, admits she would like everyone to be required to show an ID eventually. Right now, though, she just wants to volunteer to be on a list requiring poll workers to ask her - or anyone pretending to be her - for an ID. She wants to make sure her vote counts and makes a pretty convincing argument that, technologically, it would be relatively simple. Like me, she has a hard time understanding how this might be intimidating to other people merely standing nearby and in no way required to show their own IDs before voting.

"My first reaction to that [memo] was I was actually embarrassed for Shane Falk. I was embarrassed for him," Ardis Cerny told me. "He is a nice person. But they actually made him write that down?"

"I'm not embarrassed at all. My memo was based on the law, not on the will or desire of anyone else," responded Falk through a spokesperson, Reid Magney.

ADVERTISEMENT

There are a lot of attorneys who work for the board and much of work is a "collaborative" process, said Magney. But, he added, "Shane was not made to write anything."

You might say, I guess, that he was given the opportunity to volunteer, and did.

If only everyone were so lucky.

Mike Nichols is a syndicated columnist who spent 18 years writing about Wisconsin for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is now a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. This column represents only his personal opinion. He can be reached at MRNichols@

wi.rr.com.

What To Read Next