Once passed, the legislation will officially take effect Jan. 1, 2012.
With Wisconsin's controversial Voter Identification Bill (AB-7) set to finally pass the Senate, several Wisconsin groups are readying their response, including possible legal challenge.
After nine hours of debate and tabled amendments in the Senate on Tuesday, Democrats objected to a motion for unanimous consent from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald early Wednesday morning. As a result, the bill was moved to the Senate's next meeting, Thursday, May 19, at 9:00 a.m., for a final vote.
Senate Democrats labeled AB-7 "voter suppression" and "voter confusion," proposing 29 amendments to "fix" the bill Tuesday. Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan) moved to set aside each amendment, and all 29 were tabled by a party-line vote.
The Senate is likely to pass the un-amended bill Thursday to be signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker soon after.
Once passed, the legislation will officially take effect Jan. 1, 2012, making next year's spring primary the first election AB-7 will impact.
The Government Accountability Board's voter education and outreach campaign will likely begin July 1, and the Department of Motor Vehicles will also begin offering free state IDs for those that request them this July.
A representative for bill author Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), said it was "unclear" when the new 28-day residency requirement would take effect, but that it would likely depend on when Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill into law.
Although the bill will surely pass the Senate and the governor's pen un-amended, many in the Senate and public have expressed concerns regarding the bill's impact on voters in its current form.
Democratic Senators condemned the bill's potential for student voter suppression Tuesday, and asked to amend the current requirement of a signed card bearing a two-year expiration date. The amendment was rejected along party lines.
Currently, no college or university IDs in the state of Wisconsin are compliant and changing the cards would cost an estimated $1.1 million.
David Giroux, executive director of communications and external relations for the University of Wisconsin System, says the UW-system hopes to make student IDs compliant. "There's the intent," says Giroux, "but the question is 'how?'"
Giroux says the system is debating multiple approaches, including the adoption of a broad policy requiring the change on all campuses, letting each campus make its own decision regarding ID policy or even letting each student make the decision on their own.
"We are looking very closely at this and how it would effect our 182,000 students," said Giroux.
Others like Linda Ketcham, executive director of the Madison Area Urban Ministry, are preparing to combat AB-7's potential impact on the homeless, elderly and others through education and other means.
"At least initially it will be a lot of public education," says Ketcham. "We're working with the League of Women Voters and other groups to get those IDs well in advance of elections, educate people about what their rights are."
There are also those who question whether the bill could withstand future legal challenge.
UW-Madison's Prof. David Canon, an expert on election law, says those opposing the voter identification bill may have "a credible, strong case."
"I think the biggest question is going to be how the Voter ID Bill will fare under the Supreme Court's balancing test," says Canon.
Indiana passed the balancing test in its 2006 case, when the Supreme Court ruled the state's interested in promoting secure elections were balanced by voters' interest in avoiding undue burden.
"The interesting thing," Canon says, "is Indiana has twice as many DMV offices per person as we do," adding that DMVs in some counties are only open once or twice a month.
"If you happen to miss the one day in October that your DMV office is open, basically you can't vote if you... don't have the proper identification," explains Canon.
Several proposed amendments in the Senate Tuesday addressed this potential and, according to Canon, "would have made the law a whole lot less vulnerable" had they not also been tabled.
Chris Ahmuty, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, says the organization is monitoring AB-7's developments.
"The ACLU is looking to be sure [AB-7] doesn't violate the constitutional rights of certain kinds of voters," says Ahmuty.
Ahmuty says he was struck by how the state Legislature amended the bill to make it more defensible in some ways, yet still different from the controversial Indiana ID law.
"I'm surprised they're not willing to make some changes to make it closer [to Indiana's voter ID law]," says Ahmuty. "They sort of left the door open."
The ACLU's decision to challenge Wisconsin's Voter Identification Law will depend on how AB-7 is applied, Ahmuty says.
"Our immediate, short-term response is going to see if the law would be applied in a way that is legally constitutional," he says. "We still have some very serious concerns."