On the eve of Wisconsin's primary, MSNBC misled viewers with a story about how the Badger State's new voter ID law goes into effect tomorrow on primary election day. Correspondent Tony Dokoupil used the plight of two new residents to the state to complain about the cost – $34 each – of an in-state driver's license. What Dokoupil failed to mention, however, was that the couple in question could easily have obtained FREE identification from the state.
"Last month, Matt and Jessica Hegdahl (sp?) moved to Wisconsin in search of a job, and found themselves at the center of a crucial primary," Dokoupil noted, following the Hegdahls as they visited a local DMV because "While their Montana driver's license will get them on a plane, it won't get them into the voting booth."
"Valid out-of-state drivers licenses and student IDs" don't count as valid for voting purposes in Wisconsin, Dokoupil explained, lamenting that, "for the Hegdahls, the main hurdle was money, $68 for a pair of Wisconsin drivers licenses."
Of course, this is a couple with two kids who had the financial wherewithal to move from Montana to Wisconsin in the first place, and, under state law, they have 60 days after establishing Wisconsin residency anyway to trade in their Montana licenses for Wisconsin ones.
But regardless, and left unmentioned by Dokoupil, Wisconsin provides FREE voter ID to residents, provided they produce documents showing name and date of birth, proving U.S. citizenship, and proving that Wisconsin residency has been established. Cell phone bills, utility bills (water, gas, electricity, cable TV, landline telephone), mortgage documents, valid insurance policies, and a current pay stub are among the many documents applicants can produce to prove residency has been established.
[In fairness, perhaps in the case of the Hegdahls they have not YET procured any of those things because they only moved to the state a month ago and haven't yet obtained jobs or signed up for any utility services as they live with relatives and haven't any utility accounts in their names. This seems unlikely but possible. Even so, Dokoupil should have mentioned that free ID is an option when the criteria are met.]
"I, having come from states where state where there's, you know, nothing like this, think it's just archaic and terrible," Jessica Hegdahl whined in response to Dokoupil's question as to whether the voter ID policy was an unnecessary "extra burden."
But, again, keep in mind the Hegdahls just moved from Montana, which DOES have a voter ID law, just not one as strict as Wisconsin. From the Montana Secretary of State's official website:
Before you will be permitted to receive a ballot, you will need to present a current ID. If you do not have a photo ID, you can provide a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, voter confirmation notice, government check or other government document that shows your name and current address.
So, in point of fact, Mrs. Hegdahl is just plain wrong. Had she and her husband not moved and were in Montana to vote in the primary later this spring (June 7), she would be asked at such time for her photo ID and readily been able to produce her Montana one (which, by the way, costs $40 for an 8-year license,six dollars more than a Wisconsin license of the same term).
Fortunately for the Hegdahls, Dokoupil noted, they "got the extra cash from VoteRiders, a non-profit that gets people to the ballot box or, at least, to the line outside," but, the MSNBC correspondent worried, there are some "300,000, that is, the estimated number of Wisconsin voters who will be unable to go to the polls unless they get that ID problem solved," prompting both Democratic primary candidates Clinton and Sanders "have taken real issue with this law saying that it disproportionately affects poor and minority voters and those voters, not coincidentally, happen to vote Democratic by and large."
Sure, Tony, that's why, in a state that an estimated 360,000 African-Americans*, you went and found two white millennials for your story.
*corrected from earlier, when I accidentally used national Census figures.
Update (8:10 p.m. Eastern): In a Twitter exchange, Dokoupil noted that the couple in the story would have had to surrender their Montana driver licenses in order to get the free voter ID, which is why they elected to pay the $68 for their licenses. Dokoupil also promised that in a future broadcast on the Badger State's voter ID law that he would mention the free-ID option Wisconsinites have.