A Democratic state senator has introduced a constitutional amendment she hopes will help prevent the enactment of laws restricting the right to vote.
Sen. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse calls it the “Right to Vote Act.” She says it's needed to establish, once and for all, that voting in Wisconsin is a fundamental right. The state Constitution already states that any United States citizen 18 or older is a qualified elector of the district where they live. It also allows for laws regulating registration and disqualifying voters who are either in prison or on parole or probation. It does not, however, call voting a fundamental right.
UW-Madison political scientist Donald Downs says this amendment appears to be aimed at changing that.
“Look, what they say here will clearly enshrine in our state Constitution the right of every eligible citizen to exercise his or her fundamental right to vote,” Downs said. “And then, I guess, the hope is that the court would look at that strong language and be more suspicious of any kind of requirements or more requirements in the voter ID area.”
But another UW-Madison political scientist says it's not clear how any particular court would interpret this language in future rulings on state voter ID laws. Ken Mayer also doubts the amendment can win approval in the Republican-controlled legislature.
“There's no way that's going to pass. It's an amendment that's introduced as much as to make a point and establish a position as it is to reflect the fact that the person who introduced it thinks it's actually going to pass,” Mayer said.
Wisconsin's voter ID law remains tied up in both state and federal court.