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WI's voter ID law remains a focal point for pro-democracy groups

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As policy analysts point out Wisconsin has one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, a nonpartisan group is carrying out efforts to help marginalized residents overcome barriers so they can cast a ballot.

Nick Ramos, Wisconsin Voter ID coalition coordinator for the group Vote Riders, said with the midterm election less than two weeks away, he is busy providing guidance on securing the necessary documents, such as a birth certificate, for those who face challenges in obtaining the needed identification to vote.

He noted when helping Black voters, there is a sentiment they are especially burdened by the law.

"It almost becomes like this feeling of apathy," Ramos observed. "'There's so many hurdles that I have to jump through to try and be able to vote, so, like, why should I bother?' "

Ramos pointed out his group assists with things such as document fees and transportation. The state's Voter ID law was adopted in 2011 but largely remained shelved until 2016 due to legal battles. Republicans who pushed for it argued it is meant to protect against fraud, but opponents countered it is a form of voter suppression.

A University of Wisconsin researcher has linked the requirement to lower turnout among Black voters.

Meanwhile, Ramos acknowledged his group's work is happening during a time of heightened scrutiny over the voting process. Through his efforts, he noticed how the laws affect voters from many different backgrounds, stressing everyone should have a say at the ballot box.

"I don't care if you're a Republican, I don't care if you're a Democrat, I don't care what party you identify with," Ramos stressed. "My goal is to make sure that every eligible American is able to cast a ballot that counts."

Vote Riders will join several other pro-democracy groups in Madison this Friday for National Vote Early Day. They are expected to urge Wisconsinites to cast their ballot early to avoid any issues which might get in the way of making their voice heard on Election Day.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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