In the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump won Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes. Much analysis has been done as to why Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin, but most Democrats have agreed that one of the main causes for this surprising loss was the existence of a strict voter I.D. law that kept many Democrats from voting.
And now something even more surprising has happened: a top Republican official in Wisconsin has publicly stated his opinion that it was indeed the voter I.D. law that caused Trump to win Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.
The voter I.D. law went into effect in 2016, requiring that before voting people must show at least one form of government-issued photo identification to vote.
“We battled to get voter I.D. on the ballot for the November ’16 election,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel on a conservative radio show. “How many of your listeners really honestly are sure that Sen. [Ron] Johnson was going to win reelection or President Trump was going to win Wisconsin if we didn’t have voter I.D. to keep Wisconsin’s elections clean and honest and have integrity?”
In a story last year, Mother Jones reported that the voter I.D. law kept so many Democrats from voting that it probably gave the state to Trump. In 2014 a federal court stated that 9 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin didn’t have the photo I.D. they needed to cast votes. They concluded that about 45,000 voters statewide didn’t vote because of the law, most of them Democrats. This is more than twice Trump’s 2016 margin of victory in Wisconsin.
One insight into Republican motivations for supporting the I.D. law (which was defended in court by Schimel) is shown by this statistic: African American voters were three times as likely as whites to say they could not vote because of the I.D. law. And African Americans in Wisconsin favored Hillary Clinton over Trump by an 88-to-8 margin.
Neil Albrecht, the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, agreed that the voter I.D. law likely caused Trump to win. “It is very probable that between the photo I.D. law and the changes to voter registration, enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin,” he said.
Though Schimel said the I.D. law was needed to “keep Wisconsin’s elections clean and honest,” he was not able to show in court even one case of voter fraud or voter impersonation. This proves that the law did not solve a real problem, but was intended only to keep Democrats from voting.
And since the voter I.D. law is still on the books, it will affect the 2018 elections in Wisconsin. This means it will help both Schimel and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as they run for re-election.
If they win, they will no doubt take comfort in the fact that their unconstitutional voter-suppression scheme once again worked to stifle democracy in Wisconsin.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.