this Aug., 31, 2016, photo, Molly McGrath, who works
for VoteRiders to help people get the required photo
identification needed to vote, assists Mike Battles
with questions about early voting in Madison, Wis,
McGrath is helping explain Wisconsin's complex and
seemingly ever-changing election laws to voters.
They call her the "ID Lady."
black T-shirt, with large block letters on one side saying
"Ask Me" and "About Voter ID" on the
other, Molly McGrath moved back to her native state of
Wisconsin last year with the mission of helping people vote.
McGrath, that dedication includes navigating homeless people
through the voter registration form, helping people new to
Wisconsin get an in-state driver's license, arranging free
cab rides to the DMV and even personally driving people to
where they can get the required ID.
helps explain the complex and seemingly ever-changing
election laws in Wisconsin. This will be the first
presidential election where voters are required to show
photo ID, a law passed by Republicans that has survived a
series of court challenges from liberals.
a tremendous amount of unawareness and confusion about the
law," McGrath said on a late summer morning inside a
church near the state Capitol where she was helping a steady
stream of people register. "You can't help but think,
is this confusion a bug or part of the design?"
Walker and Republicans who swept into power in 2011 quickly
passed a law requiring photo IDs at the polls, arguing it
was needed to combat fraud despite scant evidence of any
widespread voting irregularities.
restricted early voting hours to the two weeks before an
election with no weekend hours and a limit of one location
per municipality. That was a particular blow to Milwaukee
and Madison, the state's two largest and most Democratic
cities, which had expansive early voting.
fought the changes and in July won big when a federal court
struck down more than a dozen Wisconsin election laws
championed by Walker and Republicans. The judge said limits
on early voting times and locations "intentionally
discriminates on the basis of race."
reach this conclusion because I am persuaded that this law
was specifically targeted to curtail voting in Milwaukee
without any other legitimate purpose," Judge James
Milwaukee moved quickly to begin early voting Monday.
he didn't strike down the voter ID law, Peterson did require
the state's DMV to quickly issue credentials to anyone
trying to obtain a free ID but lacking the underlying
documents, such as a birth certificate, needed to get it. A
federal appeals court has put on hold a separate ruling that
would have allowed those without IDs to sign affidavits at
the polls attesting to their identity.
are bracing for a close election, where turnout — or the
lack of an acceptable photo ID for a large number of voters
— could tip the scales.
In a 2014
ruling striking down the voter ID law, which was later
overturned, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman estimated that
300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin lacked a required ID.
For context, Walker won re-election in 2014 by about 137,000
votes and Ron Johnson defeated Russ Feingold in the 2010
Senate race by just over 105,000 votes.
And in 2000
and 2004 the presidential race was decided by the tiniest of
margins — about 6,000 votes in 2000 and 11,000 in 2004.
Marquette University Law School poll showed Donald Trump and
Hillary Clinton running about even in the state. It also
showed Feingold leading the incumbent Johnson by 6 points in
the hotly contested Senate race.
every vote all the more crucial. The state Elections
Commission is trying to spread the word about the law with
radio and TV public service announcements, online display
and video ads, pre-show advertising at movie theaters, bus
ads and Facebook ads.
political parties and advocates like VoteRiders are also
trying to spread the word to people like Duane Dahl. He
didn't have a photo ID until McGrath came along. She works
with VoteRiders, which helps low-income and people of color
get IDs and registered to vote.
has been homeless at times in Madison, said he was confused
about the laws, what he needed to get an ID, and where to
go. But in March he got his ID and voted in primaries in
April and August.
lucky," Dahl said. "Other people have had a huge
struggle trying to get ID."
Kurtz, 45, is homeless and hasn't voted since he was 18.
After helping him register, McGrath reminded him he'll need
his ID on Election Day to actually cast a ballot.
he'll pay more attention to politics now that he can
actually have a say in who gets elected.
you don't vote you don't have a right to be crying or
complaining," Dahl said.
veteran Mike Battles, 70, said he's voted in "every
election since Johnson." He has an ID and is registered
to vote, but he recently moved. Battles sought McGrath's
help in getting his registration changed so he can vote at
his new address.
said he was motivated to vote for Clinton.
don't want to see Trump elected because the middle class and
lower will suffer," he said.
McGrath is passionate about her work she tries to remain
nonpartisan. When another potential voter tells McGrath
"I'm scared of Trump" she laughs it off.
don't care who you vote for," she says, "as long
as you vote."
voting beginning in Wisconsin's largest cities
— Early in-person voting is beginning in Wisconsin's two
early in-person voting location opened in Madison at 7
a.m. The first two locations in Milwaukee are set to open
later Monday morning. Early voting will continue in
Madison through Nov. 4 and in Milwaukee through Nov. 5.
The election is Nov. 8.
cities are Democratic strongholds.
voting in Wisconsin began Sept. 13 in Land O'Lakes in
lawmakers had passed laws in 2011 and 2014 limiting the
window for early in-person voting to the 10 weekdays
before the election. A federal judge in July struck down
the limitations in July as part of a broader ruling
invalidating a host of GOP-authored election laws.