Who’s Affected by Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law?

(Left-to-right: Advancement Project Staff Attorney Leigh Chapman, witness Rickey Davis, witness Alice Weddle, and Advancement Project Wisconsin Voter Protection Advocate Charlotte King)

Many Wisconsin voters lack the forms of government-issued photo ID required to vote, as well as the birth certificate needed to obtain one. In addition, all but one of Wisconsin’s DMV offices are only open on weekdays, and most do not offer evening hours – an additional barrier for people who are unable to take time off from work to get ID. These obstacles, among others, make it harder to vote particularly for the elderly, people of color, and low-income voters. Here are stories of some of the plaintiffs in our lawsuit, which was recently validated by Judge Lynn Adelmann when he struck down Wisconsin's Voter ID law. These individuals would have stood to lose their voting rights under Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

Lorene HutchinsLorene Hutchins (pictured at left), a 93-year-old African-American woman, was born at home in Mississippi and lacked the birth certificate needed to get a state ID. Her 70-year old daughter spent several years and more than $2,000, in order to track down her mother’s birth certificate, as well as her own – for their right to vote. “If it had not been for my daughter Katherine, who had the time and money to fight to get me a birth certificate, I would have been barred from voting,” Hutchins testified. Hutchins passed away on January 22, 2014.

Alice Weddle, 59, was born at home in Mississippi, delivered by a midwife, and was never issued a birth certificate. Ms. Weddle, who moved to Wisconsin with her family when she was three years old, never had a driver’s license and is a regular voter. Without a birth certificate, however, she has not been able to obtain the state-issued ID now required to cast a ballot.

Rickey Davis, an Army veteran who served as a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne and was honorably discharged in 1978, also testified about his difficulty to obtain a state-issued photo ID. When he twice attempted to get a Wisconsin ID a few years ago, having moved from Illinois in 2006, he presented several forms of documentation, including his veterans ID card, military discharge papers, and a Social Security card. Yet Mr. Davis was turned away because he did not have a copy of his birth certificate.

Bettye Jones (pictured at right, with her daughter, Debra Crawford), is the case’s original lead plaintiff, who died last fall at age 78. Jones was born in Tennessee at home, and spent most of her adult life in Ohio where she had been a regular voter since the 1950s. When she moved to Wisconsin to live with her daughter, she could not get a Wisconsin-issued ID because she lacked a birth certificate. With the help of her daughter, Jones devoted substantial time and expense, over many months – writing to multiple Tennessee officials to track down any record of her birth or matriculation in school, attempting to use her children’s birth certificates to prove her existence – trying to obtain a certified birth certificate. After returning to multiple DMV offices, a clerk finally bent the rules and, upon reviewing numerous pieces of other compiled identification, gave Jones a Wisconsin ID despite not having the documentation required by law.

Rose Thompson, a longtime voter who was born at home in Mississippi, does not have a birth certificate and cannot obtain a state-issued voter ID.  Although she attempted multiple times to receive a copy of her birth certificate from Mississippi – even sending money to state offices in her birthplace of Jackson – she has been unsuccessful. The 79-year old would have been unable to vote under Wisconsin’s voter ID law. 

Melvin Robertson, 84, (pictured at left with Advancement Project Staff Attorney Leigh Chapman) was born in Milwaukee, but has no birth certificate and no way of obtaining one. He was never issued a birth certificate and never had a state issued driver's license or ID card. Mr. Robertson, a regular voter who voted as often has he could, learned about Wisconsin's voter ID law through Anita Johnson of Citizen Action. She was conducting voter education outreach at Robertson's residence in Hadley Terrace. Johnson took Robertson to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Vital records to help him obtain an ID, but they were unsuccessful because he did not have the necessary underlying documents. Robertson would have been disenfranchised if Wisconsin's voter ID law had gone into effect.