- Views & Opinions
Milwaukee’s elections chief said Wisconsin’s voter ID law caused enough poll problems in the city to lower voter turnout.
Milwaukee saw a decline of about 41,000 voters in the Nov. 8 election compared with 2012, when President Barack Obama won broad support in the city and coasted to re-election, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“We saw some of the greatest declines were in the districts we projected would have the most trouble with voter ID requirements,” said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the city’s Election Commission.
According to Albrecht, the four districts with the most “transient, high poverty” residents had trouble meeting the photo identification requirement. Before those voters had the option of taking along a “corroborating witnesses” who could vouch for them at the polls.
“We had a lot of calls,” Albrecht said. “There were college students with roommate situations or spouses where everything was in one spouse’s name.”
But Tom Evenson, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, claims the voter ID law didn’t hurt voter turnout.
“Voter turnout in this year’s presidential primary was the highest since 1972 with voter ID in place, so to now suggest turnout was down in the general election because of it is wrong,” Evenson said. “We have made voting easy while ensuring it is hard to cheat. Lower turnout in the general election was true nationwide. It was not unique to Wisconsin or voter ID.”
Albrecht did not have statistics detailing how many voters were turned away for not having the proper ID. He acknowledged that some of the drop-off in turnout resulted from less enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
But the lower turnout was among Clinton supporters. Trump won razor-thin 27,000-vote victory in the state by picking up about 1,500 more votes than Romney in the state; Clinton lost by receiving nearly 239,000 fewer votes than Obama.
Meanwhile, third-party candidates received more than 150,000 votes.
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin had 250 volunteers observing polls, mostly in places that have historically had a high number of election day registrations, such as college campuses and urban communities.
Executive director Andrea Kaminski said observers didn’t see a big problem at the polls but fears some voters never went to the polls due to the ID requirements.
“How many people are like that?” she said. “Those are the people we can’t count.”