Tag Archives: Department of Transportation

Audit: Department of Transportation vastly underestimated costs

Major highway projects in Wisconsin over the past decade have cost twice as much as the Department of Transportation  initially estimated, thanks in large part to not accounting for inflation, according to a highly critical audit released on Jan. 26.

The much-anticipated Legislative Audit Bureau report comes as the agency faces a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall and Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans who control the Legislature are sparring over how to solve it.

The audit found that 19 major highway projects completed in the past decade cost a total of $1.5 billion — twice as much as the $772 million original price tag. It also said the cost of 16 ongoing major highway projects more than doubled to a total of $5.8 billion — increasing by a staggering $3.1 billion — from the time they were approved through August 2016.

Wisconsin’s roads have consistently deteriorated over the past five years and are in “considerably” worse shape than roads in six other Midwestern states, the report said. The proportion of state highways in good condition decreased from 53.5 percent in 2010 to 41.0 percent in 2015, the audit said.

Walker, who canceled a series of public events scheduled for Jan. 26 due to illness, has insisted that he won’t raise the gas tax or vehicle registration fees to plug the transportation budget shortfall to pay for ongoing road projects. His plan is to borrow about half a billion dollars and delay about that much in ongoing major highway work.

Assembly Republicans are calling for $300 million in transportation-related tax and fee increases along with unspecified tax cuts elsewhere.

Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson said the report doesn’t change the governor’s position.

“The bottom line is, we shouldn’t even be thinking about raising the gas tax or fees until we find every last cost savings at DOT, and the audit shows we can find more savings,” Evenson said. “We welcome the opportunity to deliver services taxpayers expect at a price they can afford.”

Democrats seized on the audit, saying it shows that Walker and Republicans — who have controlled state government since 2011 — have failed on roads, created a crisis, and put drivers’ safety at risk.

“The Republican leadership’s neglect of our roads is as inexcusable as it is unacceptable,” said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca. “Our crumbling infrastructure is costing taxpayers and hurting our economy.”

While many Republicans said the report was helpful in showing where Audit: Department of Transportation vastly underestimates costs can save money, Audit Committee co-chair Sen. Rob Cowles was more critical.

“(The audit) will be devastating to the management of the DOT,” Cowles told WHBY on Jan 26. “They have to do this whole thing differently.”

He plans to hold a public hearing on the report within the next two weeks.

The audit said the Department of Transportation hasn’t consistently used performance measures to improve its operations and can do more to control costs. It also doesn’t sufficiently take into account how inflation and unexpected cost overruns affect the price tag of projects, the audit said.

Cowles said the underestimated costs made the projects more attractive to lawmakers, thus increasing the chance of the Legislature approving them. He stopped short of saying department officials were intentionally low-balling bids to get approval.

The audit bureau recommended that the WISDOT use its money more effectively and improve how it manages highway planning, engineering, construction and maintenance.

Agency Secretary Dave Ross, the former mayor of Superior who has been on the job less than a month, said the audit “provides a road map to improved efficiency and transparency at the DOT.” Ross said he’ll work to implement recommendations for improvement. Ross replaced Mark Gottlieb, who resigned as secretary three weeks ago.

Proposed interstate expansion prompts federal civil rights investigation

The U.S. Department of Transportation will initiate an investigation of alleged civil rights violations related to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s proposal to expand I-70.

The state DOT wants to expand the interstate through the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods in North Denver.

The federal decision is a response to a complaint filed Nov. 15 by Earthjustice on behalf of the Colorado Latino Forum, Cross Community Coalition and Elyria and Swansea Neighborhood Association. The complaint alleges the plan to triple I-70’s width would result in “disparate and severe environmental and economic impacts” on the predominantly Latino communities.

CDOT committed to moving forward with the expansion plan in May, but has yet to issue its formal record of its decision.

The agency, which receives federal funding for the I-70 and other projects, is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from taking actions that have even an unintentional discriminatory impact on citizens on the basis of their race, color, or national origin.

“We are looking forward to making the case that CDOT’s proposal magnifies the already discriminatory impact that I-70 has had on these neighborhoods for decades, leading to reduced life expectancies and the highest rates of pollution-related illnesses in the city,” said Heidi McIntosh, an attorney at Earthjustice who represents the neighborhood advocates.

Interstate 70 was built through the area in the 1960s over the objections of neighborhood organizations and business owners.

Fifty years later, the neighborhood is the most polluted in Colorado.

Residents have significantly higher rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma and asthma-related emergency room visits than the rest of Denver, according to EarthJustice.

The expansion of I-70, adding toll lanes and eliminating access to the highway from the neighborhood, would worsen environmental and health consequences for this community, the EarthJustice complaint states.

It would result in:

• Increased exposure to freeway-related air pollution and expose residents to airborne dust from existing Superfund sites that are contaminated by lead and arsenic.

• Disruption to the social fabric of the neighborhood and its economic vitality by destroying at least 56 homes, 13 commercial buildings and the Swansea Elementary School playground. About 200 people would be displaced by the expansion.

GOP created state’s transportation budget problems but can’t fix them

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Jennifer Shilling said in an interview with The Associated Press that it’s not up to Democrats to come up with a plan to plug a projected $1 billion transportation budget shortfall. Republicans have been in complete control of the governor’s office and Legislature since 2011 and will return in 2017 with even larger majorities in the Senate and Assembly.

“Republicans own this,” Shilling said of the transportation problem. “They own this Legislature right now. I don’t think it’s up to the minority party to have all the answers.”

Democrats have proposed broadening the base of funding for the state’s transportation budget, including raising the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. Whether to even consider higher taxes and fees is dividing Republicans.

Assembly GOP leaders have said everything should be considered. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos advocates for considering tax and fee increases. He distributed a briefing document to Republican lawmakers and reporters titled “No Easy Answers.”

That’s the message Democrats were delivering on the campaign trail, Shilling said.

“We can have a role in finding things that are acceptable,” she said. “Clearly Democrats can propose something but it’s the Republicans who are in control of the governor’s office and Senate and Assembly right now. And the Republicans are fighting right now. It’s like the right hand doesn’t agree with what the far right hand is wanting to do.”

Fourth worst in the nation

jennifer-shilling
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling

Gov. Scott Walker has insisted he won’t raise taxes to pay for roads, unless there’s a corresponding cut someplace else. Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he won’t pass a roads funding plan that Walker would veto, and two Republican senators earlier this week spoke out in opposition to raising taxes.

At a public hearing Dec. 6, Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said the condition of Wisconsin’s roads will worsen over the next 10 years and projects will be delayed for decades without an increase in spending.

The U.S. Department of Transportation ranks Wisconsin’s roadways as the fourth worst in the nation.

Gottlieb’s department’s budget would borrow half a billion dollars over the next two years and save nearly half a billion more dollars by delaying work on major projects. Shilling said Democrats agree with some Republicans who are arguing that more borrowing is not the answer to paying for the state’s roads and other transportation needs.

Democrats return to the Senate with their smallest numbers since 1971. Republicans will have a 20-13 majority there and a 64-35 majority in the Assembly. That is their largest since 1957.

Gottlieb testified on Dec. 6 that the percentage of Wisconsin roads in poor condition would double to 42 percent over the next decade, projects could be delayed for decades, and incoming revenue will not keep pace with inflation.

Even so, Gottlieb defended the department’s two-year budget proposal, which he said was written under orders from Walker not to increase the gasoline tax or raise vehicle fees.

“The governor has made a determination this is not the right time to raise taxes on Wisconsin businesses and families,” Gottlieb said.

Walker has always preferred borrowing money to be paid for at a later date — presumably when he’s out of office — over raising taxes and fees. As Milwaukee County Executive, he left the county in so much debt that his successor Chris Abele said taxpayers were paying more to service Walker’s debt than to provide services to residents.

But bragging rights to not raising taxes is an ace in the hole for a right-wing Republican with higher political ambitions, such as Walker.

‘Disinvestment’

Rep. John Nygren, a Republican co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, supports considering gas and fee hikes to pay for roads through the transportation budget. He joined with Democratic Rep. Robb Kahl in saying the current spending request is a disinvestment in roads that will hurt the state’s economy and make roads less safe while not addressing growth or other needs.

john-nygren
John Nygren, Republican co-chair of the Legislature’s budget writing committee

Kahl and Gottlieb were members of a commission four years ago that studied Wisconsin road funding and needs for the future. The “disinvestment” level was the lowest of four that a commission envisioned for road funding over the next decade. That level imagined spending on transportation being flat, a scenario that envisioned “significant deterioration” in state and local roads and bridges with projects delayed for years.

“I actually think this budget looks lower than disinvestment,” Kahl said.

The commission four years ago issued a series of recommendations to improve the condition and safety of Wisconsin’s roads and transportation systems, including raising taxes and fees. Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature ignored those recommendations.

But some Republicans are saying now is the time to consider raising taxes and fees, even though Walker and others insist it is not.

“This is not something I’m excited about, but we should consider all our options,” Nygren said.

‘Not a sustainable path’

The Dec. 6 hearing, which included invited testimony from road builders, environmentalists, local governments and others, was called by the Assembly GOP to gather information as leaders work on an alternate spending proposal. The fight over road funding, which faces a nearly $1 billion shortfall, is expected to be a central focus of the Legislature next year as lawmakers work on writing a new two-year state budget.

The DOT budget proposal that Walker supports calls for borrowing $500 million over the next two years and saving $447 million by delaying work on major projects. Delayed work would include the final phase of rebuilding and expanding Milwaukee’s Zoo Interchange and expansion of Madison’s Beltline and nearby roads in the southwestern part of the city. There would also be no money for expanding Interstate 94 from Milwaukee south to Illinois.

Gottlieb defended the DOT’s management in recent years, referring to a report circulated to lawmakers this week that the department estimates it saved nearly $100 million this year alone thanks to a variety of efficiency measures. And, he said the estimated cost to operate a midsized vehicle in Wisconsin was lower than in neighboring states.

But he also testified that incoming revenue to the department was projected to increase 0.51 percent annually in the face of inflation increasing 1.8 percent.

“This is not a sustainable path,” said Democratic Rep. Deb Kolste, of Janesville.

Democrats blame the shortfall on Walker’s massive tax cuts for Wisconsin’s wealthiest families and “incentives” for politically connected corporations.

Louis Weisberg contributed to this story.

 

Judge orders probe of state’s failure to issue photo IDs to voters

A federal judge has ordered the state of Wisconsin to investigate reports that transportation workers are failing to issue temporary photo IDs for voting, as required by law.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson issued his order around the same time a civil liberties group filed a motion in a separate case demanding a federal appellate court invalidate voter ID requirements in Wisconsin because the state hasn’t abided by its pledge.

Under Wisconsin law, voters must show a form of government-approved photo identification at the polls. People who lack such identification can obtain free photo IDs at state Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles field offices.

The agency in May announced that people who want IDs but lack the underlying supporting documents such as birth certificates could get a receipt valid for voting. The move was designed to blunt a pair of lawsuits alleging that voters who lack such documents face tough challenges in obtaining free photo IDs.

Peterson ruled in July that the DOT’s petition process to obtain the receipt was a “wretched failure” because it still left black and Hispanic citizens unable to obtain IDs. He ordered the state to quickly issue credentials valid for voting to anyone who enters the petition process but lack the necessary documents, including birth certificates.

The Nation published a story last week alleging that DMV workers at a field office told a man named Zack Moore that he couldn’t obtain a temporary ID because he lacked a birth certificate and that the way IDs were being handled was still up in the air. The story went on to say that Molly McGrath, the national campaign coordinator with VoteRiders, visited 10 DMV stations where employees gave people a wide range of answers about how long it would take to get an ID.

Moore tried to obtain his ID on Sept. 22. That was the same day Attorney General Brad Schimel filed an update with Peterson saying all DMV field staff had been trained to ensure anyone who fills out an application to enter the petition process will get an ID mailed to them within six days.

“These reports, if true, demonstrate that the state is not in compliance with this court’s … order, which requires the state to ‘promptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person who enters (the petition process) or who has a petition pending,”” Peterson wrote.

He ordered the state to investigate and report back to him by Oct. 7.

Transportation spokeswoman Patricia Mayers called the stories of problems at the DMV offices “concerning and … not consistent with DMV protocol.” She said the agency has already launched an investigation and will report its findings to Peterson, as ordered.

“DMV remains committed to working with all eligible voters to ensure they receive free identification, as required for voting,” she wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in a separate voter ID challenge before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The motion alleges that the DOT isn’t issuing voting credentials to people in the petition process and has violated its promise that anyone who goes to the DMV for photo IDs will get an ID with whatever documents they possess.

The ACLU alleged that DMV workers have failed to tell applicants the petition process exists, that applicants have had to make multiple visits to DMV offices and that workers have incorrectly told people that in order to begin the petition process, they need proof of identity such as a social security card — which can’t be obtained without a photo ID. As many as 1,640 eligible voters in Milwaukee County lack both ID and a Social Security card, the ALCU alleged.

The group also claimed that people who present birth certificates with misspellings haven’t been allowed to enter the process and DMV field offices offer limited hours. The motion asks the court allow voters who lack photo IDs to cast ballots by affidavit or completely invalidate the voter ID law.

“People who have started (the petition process) are supposed to get a temporary ID but as we’re seeing on the ground that’s not happening,” ACLU attorney Sean Young said in a telephone interview. “DMV employees aren’t implementing their own procedures. DMV cannot be trusted to this correctly.”

The state Department of Justice is defending the voter ID law in the case. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said agency attorneys are reviewing the ACLU’s filing.

— By Todd Richmond, AP writer

Elections official concerned WDOT can’t get voting credentials out on time

An election official expressed concern that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation might not be able to get voting credentials to people who lack photo identification on Election Day in time to ensure their ballots will count.

Republican legislators imposed a requirement on voters in 2011 to produce photo identification at the polls.

The mandate has survived several court challenges and will be in place for the Nov. 8 general election.

The DOT offers free photo IDs for voting, but Democrats have complained that people who lack the proper documents, such as birth certificates, can’t obtain them.

The DOT responded to those complaints in 2014 with a process that allows people to petition the agency for a free ID.

Petitioners must show documents proving their identity and Wisconsin residency; if the agency determines the petitioner is an eligible voter he or she gets an ID.

Last year, the DOT modified the process to allow anyone who enters the petition process to vote using a special credential issued through the mail.

Ann Jacobs, a member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said during a meeting in late August that people who enter the petition process on Election Day likely won’t have their votes count because credentials won’t arrive in time.

They can cast a provisional ballot without credentials, but they would have only until the Friday after the election to satisfy the identification requirement.

Since the credentials likely wouldn’t arrive in the mail until the following week, their provisional ballots would be invalidated, Jacobs said.

“Someone who lacks ID on Election Day can’t vote,” she said.

Jacobs suggested that the DOT issue credentials to petitioners over the counter.

Commission spokesman Reid Magney said the DOT doesn’t do that because it needs several days to try to verify the documents petitioners provide.

DOT spokeswoman Patricia Mayers had no immediate comment on Jacobs’ concerns.

Commission Administrator Mike Haas said his staff plans to communicate with the DOT about how it will handle Election Day petitioners. But he cautioned that all the commission can do is communicate the DOT’s position to the public.

Jacobs is an injury lawyer with a background in election law. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, a La Crosse Democrat, appointed her to the Elections Commission.

High-speed pursuit: Wisconsin police officers chasing more suspects

High-speed police chases and injuries are becoming more common in Wisconsin, despite some police departments’ restrictions on chases over minor infractions, according to a recent analysis of Wisconsin Department of Transportation records.

Law enforcement officials were involved in 567 chases during the first six months of this year, accounting for a 33 percent increase from last year, the report by Gannett Wisconsin Media found. That’s the highest number of police chases since 2007.

The number of incidents involving injuries also reached a five-year high, but no deaths were reported by police.

It’s unclear what’s driving the increase, but it contradicts efforts by some law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and across the country to refrain from chasing suspects.

Police officials in some of the state’s communities moved to restrict officers from chasing suspects involved in minor offenses after the deaths of four bystanders in Milwaukee in late 2009 and early 2010.

“We have a very tight policy. It’s not a no-pursuit policy but it’s awful close,” Evansville Police Chief Scott McElroy said. “I don’t think everybody is trained to drive that fast. We don’t do enough of it and I just think there’s too many other things that can go wrong.”

But the surge largely is due to an increase in police chases that took place in the state’s southeastern region and stemmed from minor offenses, the Gannett Wisconsin Media analysis of state records determined. The number of chases over traffic violations during the first half of 2015 in Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties nearly doubled to 131, compared to 71 last year.

In comparison, law enforcement agencies in central and northeastern Wisconsin reported 102 chases during the first six months of this year, a 10 percent decrease from the same period last year, the records show.

The analysis of state records also calls into question the accuracy of Wisconsin’s system for tracking police chases. Although local police agencies are required by state law to report all of their chases to the Department of Transportation, many chases are missing from the statewide records database, according to Gannett Wisconsin Media.

Most of the missing chases happened in southeastern Wisconsin, so comparisons between past and present data could be skewed.

Republican Senators seek to roll back auto, rail safety regulations

At a time of record auto recalls and high-profile train wrecks, Republicans are working on legislation to roll back safety regulation of the auto and railroad industries.

A bill approved this week on a party-line vote by a Senate committee brims with industry-sought provisions that would block, delay or roll back safety rules. The measure is to be part of a must-pass transportation bill that GOP leaders hope to put to a vote in the Senate as early as next week.

They are under pressure to act quickly because authority for transportation programs expires on July 31. Without a cash infusion, the government will have to delay highway and transit aid to states.

One provision would block a new Department of Transportation rule requiring that trains hauling crude oil are equipped with electronically controlled brakes that affect cars all at the same time, rather than sequentially. The bill calls for a study of the technology and puts off any regulatory mandate, which could delay implementation for years.

The brake rule was prompted by a series of train wrecks in which cars of crude oil and ethanol exploded, igniting fires that burned for days. Freight railroads oppose the rule, which could cost them billions of dollars.

Another provision would give freight and commuter railroads and Amtrak more time to install a safety system called positive train control. The technology relies on GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train position and slow or stop trains in danger of derailing because they’re traveling too fast, are about to collide with another train or are about to enter an area where crews are working on tracks.

A 2008 law requires railroads to have the technology installed and operating by the end of this year. Most are not expected to make that deadline.

The National Transportation Safety Board says that if the technology had been in operation, it could have prevented an Amtrak derailment in May that killed eight people and injured about 200 others in Philadelphia, and a derailment that killed four passengers and injured 64 others in New York City in December 2013, as well as other fatal accidents.

Railroads say they have spent billions of dollars on the technology but have been hampered by technical and financial difficulties and need more time.

The bill would effectively allow states to lower the qualifying age for interstate commercial truck drivers from 21 to 18. The provision was sought by the trucking industry, which says there is a shortage of drivers.

Another provision sought by the industry would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to remove safety ratings of truck and bus companies from its public website. The companies disagree with the methodology the agency uses for the ratings.

The bill would impose requirements on the motor carrier agency that safety advocates say could stymie new safety regulations by making an already lengthy rulemaking process even more difficult.

Following record auto recalls last year totaling almost 64 million vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked that its staff be increased and the limit on fines levied on offending automakers be raised to $300 million, from the current $35 million.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee agreed to increase the agency’s budget, but only after it satisfies 17 recommendations made by the Transportation Department’s inspector general. The maximum fine would double to $70 million, but only after the agency comes out with regulations identifying all the factors that go into calculating fines. The conditions could effectively delay action on both matters by a year or more.

Two GOP presidential candidates on the committee — Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas — didn’t attend the meeting while the bill’s provisions were being voted upon. However, the chairman, Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota., cast proxy votes for them on amendments and for Cruz on final passage of the bill. Rubio voted in person in favor of passage of the bill. Several Democrats joined GOP senators in opposing changes to controversial provisions.

Thune and other Republicans on the committee said the changes were necessary reforms to federal agencies that have overstepped their bounds or have issued regulations that unfairly penalize industry without improving safety. Thune noted the bill contains several provisions sought by Democrats and safety advocates.

One of the biggest would prevent rental car agencies from renting vehicles that are under a safety recall, but have not been repaired. Initially, the bill had said rental car agencies could rent unrepaired cars if they first informed customers. Other provisions would make it easier for states to qualify for federal grants to tackle drunk driving, promote seatbelt use and address other safety issues, and start a pilot program to inform motorists of recalls when they register their cars.

That was not enough to sweeten the bill for safety advocates.

The GOP bill is “loaded down with giveaways to special interests that will set back safety for years to come,” said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “The influence of corporate lobbyists had more sway than commonsense and cost-effective solutions to deadly problems.”

See also Congressional Republicans attack environmental policies.

Are you missing out on our ticket giveaways and free discount coupons? Simply like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Lawmaker tries again to increase drunk-driving penalties in nation’s most lenient state — Wisconsin

A Wisconsin lawmaker is trying again to increase penalties for drunken driving in the nation’s only state where first-time offenders face tickets, not jail time.

Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said he plans to introduce seven bills that would increase punishments for drunken driving offenses, including a measure that would require first-time offenders to appear in court.

“It will make an impression to offenders that this is the road they’re going down,” Ott said. “Hopefully standing in front of a judge will help them change their path.”

Current law doesn’t require a court appearance on a first offense. Ott said he was spurred to action after hearing about cases of drunken drivers who rack up multiple offenses.

Ott said he also decided to reintroduce half a dozen other bills that died in the Legislature last session. It’s not clear whether they will face a similar fate this year, but the same Republicans who were in charge last session didn’t take a position when the proposals were announced.

Among them are bills that would increase the minimum sentence for drivers who injure or kill another person in an accident; eliminate a rule that reduces penalties for offenses that occur more than 10 years apart; increase minimum sentences for fifth- and sixth-time offenders; and close a loophole for offenders with suspended licenses who drive without an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device requires a driver to blow into a device similar to a Breathalyzer to start a car. The device must be in place for at least a year.

Federal road safety agencies have said ignition interlocks are a good way to prevent people from drinking and driving repeatedly.

In 2013, there were 185 drunken driving-related deaths and 2,660 injuries on Wisconsin roads, the state’s Department of Transportation reported. The 2013 data is the most recent finalized data made available by the department.

“It’s not a problem we’re going to solve by just adding a couple laws, but the idea is that if we create more of a deterrence and possibly reduce suffering, it’s got to help,” Ott said.

Though he acknowledged that the bills received mixed reviews when they were introduced in 2013, Ott said he was optimistic about their success this session.

Frank Harris, a lobbyist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the measures are a good start but don’t go far enough. The group has supported a separate bill that would require ignition interlocks for all drivers charged with a previous offense.

A spokesman for the Tavern League, the state’s powerful alcohol lobby, didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

GOP memo instructs DMV workers not to tell voters that photo IDs are free

An internal Republican memo instructs employees with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation not to tell state voters they can get a free photo ID – unless they specifically request one for free. Otherwise, they’ll be charged $28.

The memo was sent out by former Republican state Senate aide Steve Krieser, the Huffington Post reported.

A new, Republican-backed law went into effect July 1 that requires voters to show a valid photo ID at the polls. Introduced by GOP corporate operatives in Wisconsin, the law was designed by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council to make it more difficult for traditionally Democratic voters, including students, the elderly and minorities, to vote.

Groups struggling to maintain the right for people to vote in America say that Wisconsin’s law will disenfranchise countless voters, not only because of the fee but also because of the cost of the inconvenience. With budgetary cuts to the Department of Transportation, lines to obtain driver’s licenses and photo IDs have become routinely several hours long in the state.

In rural and northern Wisconsin, few DMV locations are open more than two days a week ­– and none on weekends, according to One Wisconsin Now executive director Scott Ross. He said that people would need to take time off work to get to a DMV before they are allowed to vote.

Twenty-six percent of the 91 Wisconsin DMV stations are open one day a month or less, Ross said. Therefore, making people pay $28 on top of the cost of actually getting to a DMV could be unacceptably burdensome.

Ross and others have likened the state’s voter ID law to the poll taxes of the Jim Crow era in the South, which prevented minorities from voting.