Wisconsin Voters Stifled By Voter ID Restrictions: Voter Suppression?

Tonight’s Wisconsin primary has already begun, and strict voter ID laws appear to be causing hour-long voting lines at some polls, and at others students and same-day registrants may be turned away if they don’t meet criteria set forth by Wisconsin’s controversial voter ID law.

According to ThinkProgress Wisconsin’s controversial voter ID law may already be having an effect on the voter outcome in tonight’s pivotal primary race. Some students are having to wait over an hour just to cast a vote, causing some to speculate that tonight’s primary may be stifled by Wisconsin’s strict voter ID registrations – despite allowing same-day registration for potential voters, a move that typically increases the number of young voters who head to the polls.

“It’s fine, I don’t have class till 5:30,” said Caleb Smith, a law student speaking with ThinkProgress.

Some students trying to vote in tonight’s Wisconsin primary had headed out to the polls on their lunch breaks, and due to long lines, had to go back to class and try again later. Wisconsin polls close at 8 p.m. tonight local time, and volunteers with the League of Women Voters expressed concern that some students wouldn’t be able to come back to the polls before they closed – effectively stifling the votes of those students, reports USA Today.

Tonight’s Wisconsin primary is pivotal for both the Democratic and the Republican races, and due to fears of voter suppression, many watchdogs are on hand keeping an eye on tonight’s polls. The lines at the Wisconsin polls tonight are at record highs, which organizers reported they anticipated after seeing record-breaking numbers of new voters register in the last few days. Wisconsin is also one of few states to allow same-day voter registration, and those lines at the Wisconsin polls are reportedly the longest of all – some students had to wait hours just to vote, and if polls close in about three hours, some students may not get the chance to vote at all.

“It’s an inconvenience but it’s not that big a deal, at least they have the ID office on campus. If it was far away, I think the voter turnout would be a lot less,” said Megan Molloy, a student who sat on the floor doing homework while waiting in line to vote in tonight’s pivotal Wisconsin primary.

Wisconsin’s voter ID law contains several provisions which commentators speculate will be problematic for voters tonight, particularly out of state college students – who will be prevented from voting if they present an out-of-state ID card or driver’s license. Luckily for Molloy, her university’s ID office is right around the corner, and she was able to get a university-issued student ID which – in conjunction with her out of state ID – will be sufficient for her to vote, but many students, ThinkProgress reports, are unaware that they might not be able to vote tonight if they don’t have an in-state ID card.

“There are really long lines at UW-Madison to get a compliant ID, some students were giving up and leaving,” said Andrea Kaminski of the League of Women Voters, discussing tonight’s Wisconsin primary.

The primary in Wisconsin tonight will be razor close, reports FiveThirtyEight, for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and on the Democratic side for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. All four candidates need every vote they can get and with students and other voters being turned away – even if they have a driver’s license or ID card, some of those votes, which could change the landscape of the primary and general election, simply won’t be cast. Those voices will go unheard.

“No matter how small our voices may seem, in a great number, it can make an impact,” says Megan Molloy, urging other Wisconsin students to stick it out and make sure they have the right ID to vote.

[Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images]