Voter ID, National Politics Roundup, Ex-Prisoners Organizing To Overcome Re-Entry Barriers

Air Date:
Heard On Central Time

A Wisconsin judge has allowed people without voter IDs to use affidavits affirming their identity to vote in the November elections. Our guest tells us how the decision challenges Wisconsin’s voter ID law. Every year hundreds of former inmates are released from jail or prison in Wisconsin, and a number of them have no support system to find housing, jobs and other necessities. Our guest explains how former inmates are working together to overcome these barriers. And we also get an update from the world of national politics.

Featured in this Show

  • Where Does Schimel Go From Here On New Voter ID Ruling?

    There is a new pathway for Wisconsinites who can’t get a photo ID to vote in the November election after a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that voters can swear to their identity and use affidavits instead of IDs at the polls.

    Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, a consistent defender or the state’s voter ID rules, issued a brief statement Tuesday saying he was “disappointed with the court’s decision,” and that the state’s Department of Justice will further review the ruling before deciding its next course of action.”

    So what what next course be? Steven Wright, professor at the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and a former trial attorney in the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, said Schimel is probably conducting interviews to figure out whether he will appeal the decision.

    “My guess is he’s talking right now to the people who actually administer elections and (asking) what type of burden this would place on them. If they appeal, I would expect an appeal to happen fairly soon,” Wright said.

    Part of the issue, said Wright, is that the judge’s decision puts the new pathway in place in time for the November elections.

    “So the attorney general is weighing whether he wants to actually be aggressive in ensuring that his rules are applied in the November election or whether the court’s safety net will actually be in place,” he said.

    Tuesday’s ruling is just latest in a long back-and-forth of legal decisions. Wright said he’s worried that all the changes may confuse voters and have an impact on voter turnout.

    “I’m very worried about that,” he said. “In my experience, voter confusion happens pretty easily. Even when I talk to my students at the law school, they’re not always completely certain about what rules are going to apply.”

    Wright added that the confusion often happens with poll workers themselves.

    “(Poll workers) are often trained only once a year. So these type of last-minute rulings, you can’t always expect bigger jurisdictions, especially in places like Milwaukee, to have trained all of their poll workers — literally hundreds, thousands of people across the state — on these new, last-minute rules,” he said.

  • New Program Helps Newly-Released Prisoners Overcome Barriers

    A group of former inmates have launched a new effort to help those returning to society after a prison term be accepted as valued members of the community.

    Frank Davis was incarcerated when he was 18 and wasn’t released until he was 37. Now, he’s an organizer for Ex-Prisoners Organizing, a project of the faith-based organization WISDOM.

    When Davis said he was let out of jail, the whole world had changed. Everything seemed new to him. The internet, cell phones, even getting on the bus was a totally different experience.

    “For me, just the basic thing of learning the city, learning how to ride the bus, learning how to write an application,” he said. “And there were a lot of things that you don’t know about because you’re in this confined space, even just communicating with people.”

    Davis said he experienced a total transformation while serving time in prison. He was determined not to stumble when he was released, but it wasn’t easy. The nearly 20 years he spent behind bars was marked by punishment, no support system, no friends and no new job skills.

    “The basic jobs that you received in prison, they weren’t transferable skills out here in the world,” he said. “So, it’s frustrating for a lot of guys.”

    He was determined not to let anything hold him back — and nothing did. Now, he’s making sure it won’t hold back others by serving as a mentor of the EXPO program and providing information to those who have been newly-released from prison. EXPO helps those returning to society navigate the world that often isn’t kind to convicted criminals by connecting them with a landlord, or a company that’s willing to offer them work.

    “Because we’ve been here and we’ve done it and we’ve walked in the shoes, we can give them a little perspective of what they can expect and who they can contact, and that alleviates some of the pressure and frustration,” Davis said.

  • New Pathway For People Without Voter IDs To Cast Ballots In Wisconsin

    There is a new pathway for people without a photo ID to vote in the November election. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman decided in Milwaukee that voters can swear to their identity and use affidavits instead of IDs at the polls. We talk to a legal expert about what the new process will entail and how the decision could be challenged.

  • This Week In Washington – July 20, 2016

    Harry Enten, senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight, joins Central Time for our weekly look at the most pressing issues in national politics.

  • Ex-Prisoners Organize To Overcome Re-Entry Barriers

    Prisoners returning to society after serving a sentence face discrimination and many barriers to re-entry. A group of former inmates are working to ensure that those returning to society after a prison term are accepted as valued members of the community.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Marika Suval Producer
  • J. Carlisle Larsen Producer
  • Steven H. Wright Guest
  • Frank Davis Guest
  • Harry Enten Guest

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